China

A spate of mysterious second-time infections is calling into question the accuracy of COVID-19 diagnostic tools even as China prepares to lift quarantine measures to allow residents to leave the epicenter of its outbreak next month. It's also raising concerns of a possible second wave of cases.

President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping discussed the global response to the novel coronavirus in a phone call in which the two reportedly discussed easing tensions and pledged cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.

The leaders spoke after an extraordinary virtual G-20 meeting that was necessitated by social distancing protocols put in place to limit the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

Updated 9:31 p.m. ET Thursday

The U.S. now has more coronavirus cases than any other country in the world, surpassing China's total and highlighting how rapidly the virus can move through a population.

The U.S. logged more than 83,000 cases as of 8 p.m. ET Thursday, while China reported more than 81,00 infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Updated at 3:45 p.m.

China will close its borders to foreigners starting on Saturday, March 28, in a dramatic step to try to stop the coronavirus coming in from abroad.

The move is the latest in a string of tough steps by the Chinese government to combat the virus, which first appeared in the city of Wuhan late last year and has spread widely since.

In Italy, when political analysts say, "Here comes the cavalry" ("arrivano i nostri"), they're not talking Hollywood Westerns. They're saying, "Here come our guys: the USA has got Italy's back."

But today, the "our guys" have included less traditional friends.

The United States and China are locked in a struggle over influence and messaging about the coronavirus pandemic even as governments around the world struggle to control the outbreak.

This week, Washington claimed a small victory.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus hailed comments by China's ambassador walking back an earlier false claim in Beijing that the U.S. Army had introduced the coronavirus to its epicenter in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Now that China appears to have snuffed out local transmission of the coronavirus, it is trying hard to keep the disease from rebounding back in from abroad. China has reported just a handful of new domestic COVID-19 cases in recent days, but has seen a spike in cases coming in from elsewhere.

As thousands of travelers have begun entering China in anticipation of the eventual return to normalcy, the government has put in place a strict regime of health checks, monitoring and quarantine in the hope that it can catch any new inbound cases before infections can spread.

China's Hubei province is preparing to emerge from a two-month lockdown that was prompted by tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases. In recent days, the province and its capital city, Wuhan, have reported a dwindling number of new coronavirus cases.

China, the country on the frontlines of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has infected 81,000 people there, marked a milestone on Thursday: for the first time since December, it has no new domestic cases to report.

At the same time, China's National Health Commission announced 34 new cases contracted elsewhere and imported from abroad to the country's mainland, while Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory, reported 25 new imported cases.

Updated at 7:38 p.m. ET

Two weeks after the U.S. told a handful of Chinese state media entities to slash their U.S.-based staff, Beijing has retaliated with an order of its own: Certain U.S. nationals working with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have been banned from working in China.

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