China ready to help, Xi Jinping tells Donald Trump

Wuhan has partly reopened after being locked down for weeks.

Wuhan has partly reopened after being locked down for weeks. Photo: Getty

President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have discussed the global response to the coronavirus pandemic in a phone call, as China prepared to shut its borders to foreign arrivals amid fears of infections coming from abroad.

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases of any country, with nearly 85,000 infections.

Hospitals in cities including New York and New Orleans are struggling to cope with the wave of patients.

China has reported no new locally transmitted coronavirus infections for the previous day and a small reduction in new cases involving travellers from overseas.

China has temporarily suspended the entry of foreign nationals with valid Chinese visas and residence permits, effective from Saturday (local time). Airlines have also been ordered to sharply cut international flights from Sunday.

Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated late last year in a seafood market and which had been on lockdown for more than two months, was open to incoming traffic late on Friday although cars were not allowed to leave.

Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, removed border restrictions on Wednesday for all but Wuhan, which will allow people to leave the city starting on April 8.

President Xi’s offer of assistance to the United States in a telephone call came amid a war of words between officials in Beijing and Washington DC over various issues including the coronavirus epidemic.

Mr Trump and some US officials have accused China of a lack of transparency on the virus, and Mr Trump has at times called the coronavirus a “China virus” as it originated there, angering Beijing.

In the call, Mr Xi reiterated to Mr Trump that China had been open and transparent about the epidemic, according to an account of the conversation published by the Chinese foreign ministry.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered assistance to combat the coronavirus outbreak in a call to US President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty

Mr Trump said on Twitter that he discussed the coronavirus outbreak “in great detail” with Xi.

“China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the virus,” Mr Trump said. “We are working closely together. Much respect!”.

The World Health Organisation has said the United States, which recorded 17,099 new coronavirus cases and 281 deaths in the past 24 hours, is expected to become the epicentre of the pandemic.

-with agencies

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