Chinese leader Xi Jinping is trying to contain the virus, putting Mao-style social control measures in large areas of the country. But the government, worried that a sudden economic recession might undermine its hold on power, is also working to get vital industries back on track and reopen factories.
The annual meeting of the party-dominated congress is a dear political tradition in which the party proudly displays the model of government. It takes place in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where Mr. Xi and other leaders, along with nearly 3,000 delegates, set their agenda, issue the annual budget, and pass major legislation.
The possible postponement of this year’s meeting indicates that the coronavirus crisis is not over. Even in 2003, when China was fighting the SARS epidemic, the conference continued as usual.
“It is a somewhat extreme move,” said Jane Duckett, director of the Scottish Center for Chinese Research at the University of Glasgow. “They certainly seem very worried.”
The committee overseeing the conference said it would vote next Monday on the adjournment of the meeting. “To ensure that attention is fully focused on preventing and controlling the epidemic, it is considered necessary to postpone the conference,” said Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, quoting a committee spokesman.
However, Ms. Duket said it would be difficult for Mr. Shi to restore confidence. “When you are responsible for everything and when things go wrong, you are responsible,” she said.
On Monday, the government sought to reassure the public that it was making progress in containing the disease. Officials reported that the daily number of new cases of the Coruna virus reached 2048 – the lowest in three weeks. On top of that, more than 70,000 people have contracted the virus in China and several hundred in other countries.
Public health experts said the decrease in new infections may have been due to the government’s decision to impose travel restrictions in many cities, including Wuhan, the epicenter of the disease.
“The measures taken were extraordinary, and we see their effects,” said Raina MacIntyre, a senior biosecurity researcher at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
But experts warn that the epidemic may be more severe than what Chinese officials have described, noting that the government has a record of unreported cases – whether unintentionally, intentionally, or both.
China was wary of letting international experts help in the crisis. I have ignored offers of assistance from CDC in the United States, for example. An external WHO expert group was not allowed to visit until this week.
George W. The group started field inspections on Monday, according to the Chinese government media.
But in reference to Beijing’s efforts to control information about the epidemic, experts will not visit Hubei Province, which houses the Wuhan home and where the vast majority of deaths occurred. They will only be allowed to travel to Beijing and Sichuan and Guangdong provinces, according to Chinese media reports.
Chinese officials are working to convince the public that the government is taking swift action. Most of the country remains in trouble, with hundreds of millions of people facing severe restrictions on going abroad.
On Monday, the Legislative Council also indicated that it would consider new measures to regulate wildlife trade and consumption, which were identified as Possible source of fascism.
The details of any proposed changes are not yet clear, but the aim is to end the “wicked habit of eating wildlife,” according to a statement released by the conference’s standing committee on Monday. Mr. Xi has also called to limit trade.
Although the exact origin of the coronavirus is still being investigated, health officials and scientists say it has spread abroad from the wholesale market in Wuhan, where sellers have sold live wild animals from crowded stalls stacked in nearby quarters with meat and vegetables.
Analysts said the challenge for Mr. Shi and party leaders is to show the public that they are responding to anger and are working effectively to contain the virus and prevent any outbreaks in the future.
“There is recognition that both the central government and the senior leadership need to be seen as doing something more energetic than just blaming the governments of Hubei and Wuhan,” said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at Oriental College. African studies in London. “They want to show that the party is responsible, that people have been held accountable, and that the central government is now taking over.”
Stephen Lee Myers and Sui Li Wei contributed to the reporting.