A woman wearing a mask walks along a street in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, January 26, 2020. (File photo: Xinhua)
WUHAN, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Central China's Hubei Province, hit hard by the novel coronavirus outbreak, has started sending out workers after new infections petered out in most of its cities.
The cities of Jingzhou, Huanggang, Xianning and Qianjiang have arranged chartered vehicles to send out thousands of migrant workers at a time when factories across China are rushing to resume work amid a labor crunch.
On Sunday, 49 chartered vehicles carrying 1,445 workers departed from Huanggang, which has reported no new infections for 13 days.
The city, among the hardest hit by the virus due to its proximity to the epidemic epicenter Wuhan, has recorded a total of 2,907 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Local officials said 750,000 migrant workers who returned home for the Spring Festival holiday have been stranded in Huanggang since travel restrictions were imposed to minimize infection risks.
The city government has contacted companies in the provinces of Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu to receive local workers and sent police officers and medics to escort the chartered vehicles.
Yang Qiuli, a local resident who works in the southern boomtown of Shenzhen, said the chartered buses came at a critical time.
"I've been burning with anxiety since the end of the holiday as I couldn't return to work. I might have lost my job if the journey was further delayed," she said.
In Jianli County, under the city of Jingzhou, 70 workers had their temperatures taken before boarding buses heading toward a company in Shenzhen. Organizers said the seat occupancy of the buses was limited to no more than 50 percent.
On Sunday morning, another 72 workers from the city of Qianjiang arrived in Shaoxing, eastern China's Zhejiang Province, after an 11-hour journey on four chartered buses.
"They will go through a 14-day quarantine at a designated spot upon arrival. The Shaoxing government will shoulder all the expenses incurred and their daily supplies during the isolation," said Xuan Fangjun with Shaoxing's human resources and social security bureau.
Xuan said about 76,000 Hubei people worked in Shaoxing last year, and the city has also planned chartered trains to get back 500 workers from Hubei's Enshi on Tuesday.
The provincial government of Hubei has promised to issue health codes to facilitate personal movement within Hubei and arrange "point-to-point" trips to send workers directly from their homes to factories outside the province.
Dong Changqi, deputy head of Hubei's human resources and social security department, said they would encourage companies to arrange chartered vehicles, as well as workers to drive back to their firms.
Hubei reported four new confirmed cases of COVID-19, all from Wuhan, on Sunday, the provincial health commission said Monday.
As of Sunday, Hubei had seen no new confirmed COVID-19 cases for 11 consecutive days in its 16 cities and prefectures outside Wuhan. The city of Wuhan has also seen single-digit daily increases for five days.