March 10 (UPI) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping made a surprise visit on Tuesday to Wuhan, ground zero of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, as the number of COVID-19 infections nationwide continues to drop.
China's official media The People's Daily reported that Xi arrived Tuesday morning in Wuhan, a city of some 11 million people that has been under lockdown for over a month due to the COVID-19 outbreak, to inspect work being done to contain the virus' spread.
Wuhan, the capital of China's central Hubei province, is home to a now-shuttered seafood market that the World Health Organization said is where the coronavirus emerged in early December before infecting the Asian nation and then spreading to every continent but Antarctica.
Xi was also scheduled to visit medical workers, military commanders, soldiers, patients and residents of Wuhan during his visit, the paper said.
His trip to the city coincided with Chinese health officials reporting 19 new cases of COVID-19 in the country in the past 24 hours, continuing a steady drop in its number of new coronavirus infections.
The health officials said 17 of the cases were reported in Wuhan with the other two entering the country from abroad, making Monday the third consecutive day no new cases were reported to have emerged from outside of Hubei province in China.
In total, China has recorded 80,754 cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began.
China also registered 17 deaths to the virus in the past 24 hours, all in Hubei, increasing the country's death toll to 3,136.
China's steady decline came as cases worldwide continued to climb.
During a briefing with reporters on Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus remarked not only has the virus infected more than 100 countries and crossed the 100,000 cases mark, but it had done so rapidly.
"Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real," he said. "But it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled."
He said of the more than 110,000 confirmed cases, 93 percent reside in four countries -- China, Italy, South Korea and Iran -- calling the outbreak "an uneven epidemic at the global level."
Both China and South Korea were experiencing recent declines, he said.
"The bottom line is: We are not at the mercy of this virus," Ghebreyesus said.
In the past 24 hours, WHO reported Bangladesh, Albania and Paraguay added their names to the growing list of countries that have recorded at least one infection of the virus. Since WHO's daily report was published Monday, Panama and Mongolia confirmed first infections. According to a live tally by Johns Hopkins University, at least 115 countries have been infected.
Mongolia on Tuesday reported its first COVID-19 case and in response locked down its city centers through prohibiting all traffic between them.
The government of Mongolia said in a statement that its first COVID-19 patient was a French national working at the Badrakh Energy company who had arrived in the capital Ulaanbaatar via plane from Moscow earlier in the month.
In response to the infection, the State Emergency Commission ordered the suspension of all transportation, including road, air and rail, until Monday, according to official state-operated news agency Montsame.
The government also isolated 28 people who had traveled on the same train as the French national and 59 Badrakh Energy employees. In total, 120 people who have come into close contact with the French national have been taken into quarantine, the government said.
Meanwhile, India's northeastern state of Manipur indefinitely closed its border with Myanmar on Tuesday.
Myanmar has yet to report infection of the virus while India has 47 though none in Manipur, according to India's Ministry of Health.
N. Biren Singh, chief minister of Manipur, said the action was taken "as a precautionary measure."
Nearby Arunachal Pradesh, also in the northeast, prohibited foreigners from entering India via its borders on Saturday "in view of the reported cases of virus being detected in our country through people coming from abroad," Pema Khandu, chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, said via Twitter.
India earlier Tuesday also repatriated 58 pilgrims via military aircraft from Iran, which has the fourth-highest number of cases at 7,161. Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan said the evacuees consisted of 31 women, 25 men and two children.
The India Air Force C-17 plane departed from the capital Tehran early Tuesday and landed at Hindon outside New Delhi, Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar announced on Twitter.
"Mission completed," he said, adding they are working on returning more Indians stranded in the Middle Eastern country.
Vardhan said the passengers will undergo a 14-day quarantine.
South Korea on Tuesday also reported 131 new cases of the virus over the previous 24 hours, increasing its total number of infections to 7,513, making it the world's third-largest epidemic after China and Italy.
It also reported three more deaths from the day prior, increasing its death toll to 54.