The Chinese government’s State Council late Wednesday announced new measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus by asymptomatic carriers as the country’s leaders seek to prevent a second major outbreak of the disease.
The new rules are a response to the increasing number of asymptomatic cases officials have seen in the past few days, with 56 new “carrier” cases that were reported on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Under the new measures, hospitals and medical institutions must report the asymptomatic cases within two hours of diagnosis. Local officials must then identify all contacts that the patient had within the last 24 hours. The confirmed carrier and their known contacts will then be asked to quarantine for 14 days.
The new regulations come as China has seen a reprieve from the outbreak after months of strict lockdowns and quarantines. The disease first became rampant in Wuhan, which became the first epicenter of the virus.
Asymptomatic patients pose a serious risk of spreading the virus, as those who do not present symptoms presume that they are healthy and are more likely to come in to contact with others who are susceptible.
Beijing announced on Thursday that there will be new regulations for bars in the capital, according to the wire service. Those businesses will have to place their tables almost four feet apart from one another, and ensure that the furniture is disinfected thoroughly and often.
The commercial center of Shanghai also reportedly announced that it will be reopening some schools at the end of April.
Though the threat of a second outbreak looms over China, a top medical professional in Wuhan said he did not think there was reason to worry.
“We think in the future there could be some sporadic cases and even some local outbreaks, like how at a company you might see 30 or 20 contagion cases that become an outbreak. But the possibility of a big outbreak, there isn’t really such a possibility,” Zhang Dingyu, president of Jinyintan Hospital told reporters, according to the news outlet.
He also noted that they are “overdoing” protective measures with regard to treatment of patients who tested positive for the virus to ensure that the disease does not proliferate.
Globally, the coronavirus continues to rage on. On Thursday, Italy reported over 4,000 new cases of the virus. The United States has reported over 450,000 confirmed cases, and close to 16,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.