Xi Jinping warned of the 'grave situation' created by the 'accelerating' spread of coronavirus

ecranley@businessinsider.com (Ellen Cranley)
xi jinping

Damir Sagolj/Reuters

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping warned of the "grave situation" posed by the deadly coronavirus outbreak and promised ramped-up measures were coming from the government to address and contain the virus.
  • Multiple reports said Xi announced the government was establishing a task force to address the crisis, and citizens could expect increased monitoring of public spaces and more resources opening up in affected areas. 
  • As 12 cities were officially put on lockdown, citizens called for Beijing to step in after online posts slammed local officials who appeared to have botched their initial response to the virus. 
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Chinese President Xi Jinping warned of the "grave situation" posed by the deadly coronavirus outbreak. 

Xi convened a special government meeting on the Lunar New Year holiday, and spoke alongside Communist Party leadership in some of his first comments warning of the massive outbreak, according to reported summaries by state television.

"Confronted with the grave situation of this accelerating spread of pneumonia from infections with the novel coronavirus, we must step up the centralized and united leadership under the party central" Xi said, according to The New York Times.

The president then outlined a plan for country-wide measures to confront the spread of the outbreak, including ramping up treatment for patients and distributing resources to affected areas.

The Times reported that leadership said it will establish a task force to address the crisis, that among other measures, could engage local and military medical resources and ensure increased monitoring of passengers and visitors at railway stations, airports, and ports.

"We're sure to be able to win in this battle to beat the epidemic through prevention and control," Xi said.

The president's comments come after he was relatively silent about the spreading virus as frustrations grew over authorities in the Chinese province identified as the outbreak's epicenter.

Local officials in Wuhan, a city of roughly 11 million in the central China Hubei province, were at the front of the initial response to increasing reports of a mysterious virus. 

The city been quarantined since Thursday and travel in or out is of the area was canceled. However, Wuhan's mayor admitted that initial "warnings were not sufficient," just one aspect of the public health response that he said was largely botched.

Trending posts on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo called for the Communist Party to address the crisis as citizens bristled under measures like the government-ordered quarantine of 35 million people across 12 cities.

Multiple reports recalled the Chinese government's response to the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic that originated in China before it sickened 8,000 and killed 744, in which officials largely tried to cover up the deadly spread until a whistleblower revealed the true scale of the disease.

It appears the government has taken a wholly different approach since the outbreak two weeks ago, as the World Health Organization said throughout its work so far in the country, Beijing had been cooperative and transparent in coordinated efforts to address the virus. 

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