As the number of new COVID-19 cases in mainland China have fallen dramatically, government officials have begun to slowly relax restrictions on travel, public gatherings, and public spaces.
After three months of quarantine and self-isolation, the people of China, of course, are eager to resume a normal life. Recent images from the country show streets packed with people, restaurants filled with hungry patrons, and parks teeming with face-mask-clad crowds enjoying the fresh air.
While this may appear to be an encouraging sign that the country where the COVID-19 pandemic began has officially defeated the virus, China’s experts are warning that the risk for virus resurging is still high.
Holiday Weekend in China
Over the country’s holiday this weekend, thousands of people flocked to places like Huangshan Park in Anhui province, Shanghai’s Bund waterfront, or Beijing’s city parks.
The crowds at Huangshan park were so immense that park officials had to start turning people away at 7:48 in the morning because the park had already reached its visitor limit of twenty thousand people per day .
The country’s eagerness to return to normal is understandable. China’s economy has taken a devastating hit since the outbreak began, and the government has been encouraging companies to return to work, but with strict restrictions to prevent a resurgence of the virus .
As for public spaces, the government has also shown signs of caution. Plans to reopen movie theatres have been canceled, and many tourist attractions in Shanghai were shut down just ten days after reopening.
After images of the crowded spaces emerged on social media, however, Chinese officials are urging people to continue to remain cautious and to avoid large crowds or public gatherings. Chinese newspaper The People’s Daily published an article reminding people of the dangers, warning them that transmission of the virus through asymptomatic carriers could have severe consequences.
“We must continue to strictly control the gathering of people and strengthen the protection of key personnel,” said a representative at a press conference. “Prevention and control of epidemic situations should emphasize and re-emphasize, persevere and persevere, and always remain vigilant and strictly guarded.” 
Huangshan has since announced that it will stop receiving tourists.
“A New Stage” in China
Chief epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Zeng Guang, has warned that China has not yet reached the finish line.
“China is not near the end, but has entered a new stage. With the global epidemic raging, China has not reached the end,” he said .
Since the outbreak began in Wuhan, COVID-19 has spread to every continent on earth except for Antarctica. As of April 6, the total number of confirmed cases worldwide has reached nearly 1.3 million, with the death toll over 71 thousand .
Countries like the United States, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France have all surpassed China in number of cases, most of them with significantly higher death tolls. Italy, for example, has now experienced over fifteen thousand deaths, nearly five times that of China .
China has reported having just 39 new cases, however, 38 of these cases were imported. With the virus still gripping most of the rest of the world, China must remain vigilant in order to protect itself from another outbreak .
The Third Wave
Experts in Hong Kong have now begun warning about the possibility of a “third wave” of infections. One of the country’s epidemiologists, Yuen Kwok-yung, believes that imported cases from Europe and the US could lead to this “new wave” of cases in mainland China.
“So in Hong Kong, we might have a third wave of cases coming from the mainland after a second wave,” he explained. “The epidemic is still serious in the society. At this stage, it is still not optimistic. What worries me the most is inadequate testing on patients with mild symptoms, which prevents us from cutting off the chain of transmission,” .
The number of cases of the virus in Hong Kong has recently jumped from 317 to now over 900, due to the return of citizens and expatriates from Europe and the UK [1,4].
This could mean that the government will have to reinstate some stricter measures across the country to control the spread and prevent this third wave from happening.
Hong Kong governor Bernard Chan understands that while this may induce public panic, it may be necessary, stating that the alternative could be something worse .
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