New Delhi: A recent speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping that has been published by state media indicates for the first time that he was leading the response to a new virus outbreak from early on in the crisis.
The publication of the Feb 3 speech was an apparent attempt to demonstrate that the Communist Party leadership acted decisively from the beginning, but also opens Xi up to criticism over why the public was not alerted sooner.
In the speech, Xi said he gave instructions on fighting the virus on Jan 7 and ordered the shutdown that began on Jan 23 of cities at the epicenter of the outbreak.
His remarks were published by state media late Saturday.
“On Jan. 22, in light of the epidemic’s rapid spread and the challenges of prevention and control, I made a clear request that Hubei province implement comprehensive and stringent controls over the outflow of people,” he told a meeting of the party’s standing committee, its top body.
China’s National Health Commission on Sunday reported a drop in new virus cases for the third straight day.
There were 2,009 new cases in mainland China, bringing the total to 68,500.
The mortality rate remained stable with 142 new deaths, the commission said, raising the death toll from COVID-19, a disease caused by a new coronavirus, to 1,665.
Another 9,419 people have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.
Four people have died outside of mainland China, with the most recent fatalities in France and Japan last week.