China’s president has delivered a stark message about the coronavirus crisis, labelling it the country’s most serious and fastest spreading public health threat since the founding of the People’s Republic.
In a teleconference broadcast to every county government and military regiment in the country on Sunday (local time), Xi Jinping said the epidemic saw “the most infected” of any other outbreak, according to state news agency Xinhua.
He added it was “the most difficult to prevent and control”, saying it was “a crisis for us and it is also a major test”.
Mr Jinping conceded the country’s “obvious shortcomings” were exposed in the way it responded to the deadly virus.
“At present, the epidemic situation is still severe and complex, and prevention and control work is in the most difficult and critical stage,” he said on Sunday.
On Monday, China recorded another 150 new deaths with a further 409 cases confirmed cases. All but one of the deaths were in the epicentre of Hubei.
Mr Jinping highlighted the importance of fighting the epidemic in the capital Beijing, which has recently required people arriving from elsewhere in China to be quarantined at home for 14 days.
Big economic impact on China
He said it would have a relatively big, but short-term impact on the economy and that Beijing would step up policy adjustments to help cushion the blow.
The G20 grouping of the world's top economies called on Saturday for a coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak, which the IMF (International Monetary Fund) predicted would lower China's growth this year to 5.6 per cent and shave 0.1 percentage points from global growth.
The virus has killed 2,443 people in China, which has reported 76,936 cases, and has slammed the brakes on the world's second-largest economy.
While more factories, businesses and construction sites are slowly reopening after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, the limited data available so far suggests manufacturing is still running at levels far below those in the same period last year.
The outbreak has spread to some 28 other countries and territories, with a death toll of around two dozen outside China, according to a Reuters tally.
On Sunday China reported 648 new infections but only 18 were outside the epicentre of the outbreak in Hubei province, the lowest number outside the province since authorities began publishing data a month ago.
This comes as health authorities confirmed six Australians evacuated to Darwin from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the virus.
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