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'Grave situation': Coronavirus has infected 1,300 people across China, warns Prez Xi

'Faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus, it is necessary to strengthen the centralised and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee,' said Xi.

Published: 25th January 2020 08:19 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th January 2020 09:17 PM   |  A+A-

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Photo | AP)

By AFP

BEIJING: President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that China was facing a "grave" situation as authorities took urgent action to halt the spread of a virus that has killed 41 people and is overwhelming hospitals at the epicentre of the health emergency.

The world's most populous country scrambled to contain the disease that has already infected nearly 1,300 people, building a second field hospital to relieve overwhelmed medical facilities and closing more travel routes as the country marked the Lunar New Year holiday.

"As long as we have steadfast confidence, work together, scientific prevention and cures, and precise policies, we will definitely be able to win the battle," Xi said, after more countries reported cases.

In Wuhan, the epicentre of the emergency, 450 military medics were deployed to help treat patients in the central city, where a seafood and live animal market has been identified as the centre of the outbreak.

VIEW GALLERY: Coronavirus outbreak - How bad is the scene in China? These pictures will tell you

President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that China was facing a "grave" situation as authorities took urgent action to halt the spread of a virus that has killed 41 people and is overwhelming hospitals at the epicentre of the health emergency.

The world's most populous country scrambled to contain the disease that has already infected nearly 1,300 people, building a second field hospital to relieve overwhelmed medical facilities and closing more travel routes as the country marked the Lunar New Year holiday.

"As long as we have steadfast confidence, work together, scientific prevention and cures, and precise policies, we will definitely be able to win the battle," Xi said, after more countries reported cases.

In Wuhan, the epicentre of the emergency, 450 military medics were deployed to help treat patients in the central city, where a seafood and live animal market has been identified as the centre of the outbreak.

Protect yourself

Residents in Wuhan were stocking up on masks, gloves and disinfectant.

"Everyone is just trying to protect themselves," said a man in a surgical mask at a busy pharmacy.

But the man expressed confidence in the Communist authorities.

"The government is handling this. It's not a problem."

The virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

The new virus has now infected people nationwide and in nearly a dozen other countries, with France saying three cases were confirmed there -- the first known European infections.

Beijing's Forbidden City, Shanghai Disneyland and a section of the Great Wall are among many attractions that have closed as a precaution. China's film box-office earnings for Lunar New Year's Eve on Friday were just one-tenth of last year as people shunned crowds.

"Usually we celebrate as a family. Now, because of the virus I'm not even visiting my parents," said Wang Fang, a 49-year-old Wuhan native.

"It'll be great just to be able to make it through (the outbreak)."

Trump praise

Xi chaired a Communist Party leadership meeting which urged regional governments to make "the safety of the masses' lives and their physical health a top priority", state media said.

Xinhua said the Standing Committee agreed to set up a working group that would visit Hubei.

In Hong Kong, where five people have tested positive for the virus so far, city leader Carrie Lam declared the situation an "emergency" and schools, currently on holiday, will remain closed until February 17.

China's aggressive response has won praise, especially compared to the SARS outbreak, when it was accused of reacting sluggishly and stonewalling the international community.

"China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus," US President Donald Trump tweeted, hours after the United States confirmed its second case.

"The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency," he added.

The World Health Organization on Thursday stopped short of declaring a global emergency, which would have prompted greater international cooperation, including possible trade and travel restrictions.

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