Beijing—Beijing on Tuesday reported zero new coronavirus cases for the first time since the emergence of a cluster in the Chinese capital in June that prompted fears of a domestic second wave.
A total of 335 people have been infected since a cluster emerged at the city's massive Xinfadi wholesale market in early June.
The news comes as millions of students in the city and around the country gather in exam halls to take the all-important national college entrance exam after days of tracking their health.
This developed as Australia on Tuesday ordered millions of people locked down in its second-biggest city to combat a surge in coronavirus cases, as nations across the planet scrambled to stop the rampaging pandemic.
While some countries are worried about second waves of infections, the worst-hit—the United States—was still "knee-deep" in its first, its top expert warned, with cases also surging in India and Brazil.
Global COVID-19 cases have surged past 11.5 million with more than 536,000 dead, and the lingering threat was illustrated by Australia—which had largely suppressed its outbreak—locking down five million people in Melbourne to fight a recent spike.
"We can't pretend" the coronavirus crisis is over, said Daniel Andrews, premier of Victoria state, after its capital Melbourne reported 191 new cases in 24 hours.
"These are unsustainably high numbers... There is simply no alternative (to the lockdown) other than thousands and thousands of cases and potentially more."
The lockdown of the Melbourne metropolitan area would begin at midnight Wednesday and last at least six weeks, while Victoria state will effectively be sealed off from the rest of the country a day earlier.
Beijing's health commission said on Tuesday it detected only one asymptomatic case the previous day, which China does not include in its count of confirmed infections.
While Chinese authorities are still investigating the cause of the latest outbreak, the virus was detected on chopping boards used to handle imported salmon at Xinfadi market, prompting a ban on certain imports and increased scrutiny of foreign food suppliers.
The Beijing government has tested more than 11 million people for COVID-19 since June 11—roughly half the city's population, officials said at a press conference Tuesday.
Residents lined up in the summer heat at testing venues across the city in June, with hundreds of thousands of samples collected each day.
Localised lockdowns across the city have been eased in recent days, with people living in areas of the city considered "low risk" now allowed to travel freely again.
The first batch of more than 5,000 people quarantined for their connections to Xinfadi market will be released Tuesday, Beijing spokesman Xu Hejian said.
But city authorities warned against complacency.
"Zero increase in cases does not mean zero risk," Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the city's centre for disease control, told reporters.
Authorities "cannot rule out the possibility of new domestically transmitted cases over the next week", she warned, as thousands of people including 31 asymptomatic patients remain under quarantine.
The United States is still dealing with its first coronavirus wave, warned Anthony Fauci, its top infectious disease expert.
Officials have warned that hospitals in some parts of the country are in danger of being overwhelmed, with many states hit particularly hard after they eased virus restrictions.
"We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this," warned Fauci on Monday, saying the US never managed to suppress infections to a manageable level before reopening like some European nations.
"We went up, never came down to baseline, and now we're surging back up. So it's a serious situation that we have to address immediately."
The US COVID-19 death toll hit 130,000 on Monday, with confirmed infections fast approaching three million.
Some mayors have said their cities exited lockdown too early, as President Donald Trump tried to downplay the severity of the crisis, instead prioritising economic reopening.
But in the latest example of the human toll, the US government on Monday said it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all their classes are moved online because of the virus.
"The worst thing is the uncertainty," said Gonzalo Fernandez, a 32-year-old student from Spain.
"We don't know if we will have classes next semester, if we should go home, if they are going to throw us out."
China had largely brought the deadly outbreak under control before the new Beijing cluster was detected last month.
The government has since also imposed a strict lockdown on nearly half a million people in neighbouring Hebei province to contain a fresh cluster there, adopting the same strict measures imposed earlier this year in Wuhan, where the virus was first detected.