The coronavirus epidemic that has killed over 2,400 people is communist China’s “largest public health emergency” since its founding in 1949, said President Xi Jinping on Sunday.
It is necessary to learn from “obvious shortcomings exposed” during China’s response, Xi added at an official meeting to coordinate the virus fight — a rare acknowledgement by a Chinese leader.
In comments reported by state broadcaster CCTV, Xi said the epidemic “has the fastest transmission, widest range of infection and has been the most difficult to prevent and control”.
“This is a crisis for us and it is a big test,” he said.
Xi’s comments come as the number of virus infections hit almost 77,000 in mainland China — with countries such as South Korea on high alert and Italy taking containment measures as well.
Xi acknowledged on Sunday that the epidemic will “inevitably have a large impact on the economy and society”, but he stressed the effects will be “short-term” and controllable.