Xi: Epidemic Grim,Must Revive Industry 02/23 09:37
Warning that China's virus epidemic is "still grim and complex," President
Xi Jinping called Sunday for more efforts to stop the outbreak, revive industry
and prevent the disease from disrupting spring planting of crops.
BEIJING (AP) -- Warning that China's virus epidemic is "still grim and
complex," President Xi Jinping called Sunday for more efforts to stop the
outbreak, revive industry and prevent the disease from disrupting spring
planting of crops.
Xi defended the ruling Communist Party's response as "timely and effective"
in a video conference with officials in charge of anti-disease work, according
to the official Xinhua News Agency.
Xi sounded a note of caution in the face of hopes abroad that the disease
that has killed more than 2,400 people since December might be under control.
He said the situation is at a "critical stage" and called on officials to
"resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic."
"The current epidemic situation is still grim and complex," Xinhua cited Xi
as saying. "Prevention and control are at the most critical stage."
The ruling party is trying to strike a difficult balance between stopping
the virus and reviving China's vast manufacturing and other industries. Most of
the world's second-largest economy has been shut down since late January in the
most sweeping anti-disease measures ever imposed and are only gradually
Forecasters say China might rebound quickly if the outbreak can be
controlled by the end of March. But they say this quarter's economic output
will shrink by as much as 1% from the quarter ending in December after Beijing
extended the Lunar New Year holiday to keep factories and offices closed and
told the public to avoid traveling.
Concern is growing that the disease might be spreading in South Korea and
other countries, instead of only affecting people who visited China and others
who had close contact with them.
Xi said the epidemic is a health emergency with the "fastest spread" and
"most difficult prevention and control" in China since the Communist Party came
to power in 1949, according to Xinhua.
"For us, this is a crisis and a big test," Xi was cited as saying.
The report made no mention of criticism from members of the public that
officials delayed taking action against the disease and might be concealing
details its impact, but Xi was cited as saying "all work arrangements are
timely" and anti-disease measures are effective.
The meeting included officials of the Cabinet and the group headed by
Premier Li Keqiang, China's No. 2 leader, that was formed to oversee
anti-disease efforts, according to Xinhua. It said officials from Hubei, the
central province where the outbreak began, also participated.
Invoking the martial theme the ruling party has given the anti-disease
campaign, Xi called on them to "deploy medical forces" to "cut off the source
of infection," especially in the capital, Beijing. At the same time, he said
they must help factories and other companies reopen and make sure low-income
workers are employed.
The president said "low-risk areas" in China should adjust disease-control
measures to "fully restore production" while higher-risk areas keep their focus
on epidemic prevention.
The government previously promised tax breaks, subsidies and other aid to
entrepreneurs and farmers to cushion the blow of the most sweeping anti-disease
controls ever imposed.
Forecasters say it will be at least mid-March before manufacturing and other
industries return to normal after the government cut off most access to Wuhan,
the city at the center of the outbreak, imposed travel controls nationwide and
closed factories, restaurants, shopping malls and other businesses. That
disrupted the flow of supplies to farmers and factories.
Xi mentioned possible use of monetary policy and more cuts in taxes and fees
to support job creation but announced no specific initiatives.
"We must promptly solve the outstanding problems that affect spring plowing
and organize production, circulation and supply of materials to ensure
production does not miss the farming time," Xi was cited as saying.
Local officials previously were ordered to make sure food supplies flow to
populous Chinese cities following panic buying after the shutdown of access to
Wuhan. Villages have been banned from setting up roadblocks to keep away
outsiders and possible infection.
The government must "actively organize" production of vegetables, livestock
and poultry and "unblock transportation channels," the president said.