Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Wuhan province, takes charge to contain Coronavirus outbreak
Premier Li Keqiang on Monday became the highest-ranking Chinese leader to visit Wuhan, the ground zero of the novel Coronavirus outbreak, as he took charge of the complex efforts to curb the spreading pathogen which has claimed 80 lives and infected nearly 2800.
Li’s visit to Wuhan came amid the city’s top official admitting that there had been a problem with the timely public disclosure of information about the Coronavirus.
China early on Monday announced an unprecedented extension of the Lunar New Year (LNY) holidays in the latest attempt to contain the spread the of rapidly spreading novel Coronavirus.
Health experts said Sunday that the seven-day holiday window for the LNY – which started on January 25 -- was a “critical period” to contain the virus as hundreds of millions of Chinese will begin their return journey home at the end of it.
They said the ability of the virus to spread was getting stronger and that it could also infect during the 1 day-to-14 day incubation period.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is expected to arrive in Beijing on Monday to support the coronavirus response, and that his team would understand the latest developments there and strengthen the partnership with China in providing further protection against the outbreak.
The WHO has stopped short of calling the outbreak an international public health emergency but said it was an emergency for China.
Before departing from Geneva, the WHO chief had said that his agency was working 24/7 to support the Chinese people during this difficult time and to remain in close contact with affected countries; the WHO is updating all countries on the situation and providing specific guidance on what to do to respond, he added.
Ahead of Li’s arrival in Wuhan, city mayor Zhou Xianwang said he was ready to resign if that helped in containing the spread of the virus.
Zhou made the remarks in an interview on Monday with state broadcaster CCTV amid rising public anger over managing the crisis by the local government of the city, which is under an unprecedented civil lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading.
“If people want to pursue accountability [about the lockdown] and the public has a strong opinion, we are willing to step down,” he said.
Zhou, according to reports, admitted that the city government’s disclosure of information had been “unsatisfactory”.
Li, who is heading the high-level group charges with fighting the outbreak visited patients and medical personnel while also directing virus prevention work in the city, capital of the central province of Hubei.
“You are trying every means to save lives,” Li told medical staff at Jinyintan hospital, one of the designated institutions in Wuhan for treating infected patients.
“When you are putting your efforts to save lives, you have to protect yourselves too,” reports quoted him as saying.
As of noon on Monday, there have been 2744 confirmed cases of Wuhan Coronavirus in the Chinese mainland and 80 deaths.
At least 461 patients were critical and as many 5794 suspected cases were being monitored.
The national health commission (NHC) said 17 confirmed cases had been reported in Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions and Taiwan, with eight in Hong Kong, five in Macao and four in Taiwan.
Overseas, confirmed cases were reported in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France, and Australia.