China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, will allow businesses to gradually come back online and will resume some public transportation services, the provincial government said in a statement Wednesday.
The decision comes as the number of cases in the province has declined significantly. Hubei was reporting thousands of infections a day just weeks ago. There were only 14 new infections reported in Hubei Tuesday, according to China's National Health Commission.
Businesses in Wuhan -- the provincial capital and the city where the virus was first identified -- that are related to epidemic control, public utilities and daily necessities are allowed to resume work now, the statement said. Other firms can return to work starting on March 20.
The provincial government said that regions outside Wuhan will be divided into areas of high, medium and low risk. The order of work resumption will depend on the nature of businesses and where they are located. Meanwhile, business that involve people gathering in small spaces -- like karaoke bars, movie theaters and beauty salons -- will not be allowed to reopen until after the outbreak is over.
Areas where the risk is deemed medium or low will be allowed to gradually resume public transportation services like city buses and flights between provinces.
However, public transportation in Wuhan and other high-risk areas will continue to be suspended until further notice, it said. Schools across Hubei province will continue to be suspended until further notice and checkpoints will remain in place for those wishing to enter or leave Hubei.