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China closes borders to foreigners as COVID-19 cases spike abroad

China said it will suspend the entry of foreign nationals with valid visas or residence permits, beginning midnight local time on March 28, to contain the spread of coronavirus infection as cases rise abroad.

"The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. The restrictions will not be applicable to diplomatic or courtesy visas.

The move was announced as data showed the U.S. surpassing China to become the country with the most number of coronavirus-infected cases. China's National Health Commission reported 55 new cases of infection, all but one which were imported, as of March 26, taking the country's tally to more than 81,300 confirmed cases and just under 3,300 deaths.

The U.S. has more than 85,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

China has seen a slowing number of new domestic cases after locking down a number of regions to contain the virus' spread. The city of Wuhan, where the virus was first discovered and the initial epicenter of the outbreak, will lift transport restrictions April 8 just as many countries have ordered citizens to stay at home to stem the pandemic.

READ MORE: Sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter here, and read our latest coverage on the crisis here.