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Xi: Epidemic Grim,Must Revive Industry 02/23 09:37

   Warning that China's virus epidemic is "still grim and complex," President 
Xi Jinping called Sunday for more efforts to stop the outbreak, revive industry 
and prevent the disease from disrupting spring planting of crops.

   BEIJING (AP) -- Warning that China's virus epidemic is "still grim and 
complex," President Xi Jinping called Sunday for more efforts to stop the 
outbreak, revive industry and prevent the disease from disrupting spring 
planting of crops.

   Xi defended the ruling Communist Party's response as "timely and effective" 
in a video conference with officials in charge of anti-disease work, according 
to the official Xinhua News Agency. 

   Xi sounded a note of caution in the face of hopes abroad that the disease 
that has killed more than 2,400 people since December might be under control. 
He said the situation is at a "critical stage" and called on officials to 
"resolutely curb the spread of the epidemic." 

   "The current epidemic situation is still grim and complex," Xinhua cited Xi 
as saying. "Prevention and control are at the most critical stage."

   The ruling party is trying to strike a difficult balance between stopping 
the virus and reviving China's vast manufacturing and other industries. Most of 
the world's second-largest economy has been shut down since late January in the 
most sweeping anti-disease measures ever imposed and are only gradually 
reopening. 

   Forecasters say China might rebound quickly if the outbreak can be 
controlled by the end of March. But they say this quarter's economic output 
will shrink by as much as 1% from the quarter ending in December after Beijing 
extended the Lunar New Year holiday to keep factories and offices closed and 
told the public to avoid traveling. 

   Concern is growing that the disease might be spreading in South Korea and 
other countries, instead of only affecting people who visited China and others 
who had close contact with them. 

   Xi said the epidemic is a health emergency with the "fastest spread" and 
"most difficult prevention and control" in China since the Communist Party came 
to power in 1949, according to Xinhua. 

   "For us, this is a crisis and a big test," Xi was cited as saying. 

   The report made no mention of criticism from members of the public that 
officials delayed taking action against the disease and might be concealing 
details its impact, but Xi was cited as saying "all work arrangements are 
timely" and anti-disease measures are effective. 

   The meeting included officials of the Cabinet and the group headed by 
Premier Li Keqiang, China's No. 2 leader, that was formed to oversee 
anti-disease efforts, according to Xinhua. It said officials from Hubei, the 
central province where the outbreak began, also participated. 

   Invoking the martial theme the ruling party has given the anti-disease 
campaign, Xi called on them to "deploy medical forces" to "cut off the source 
of infection," especially in the capital, Beijing. At the same time, he said 
they must help factories and other companies reopen and make sure low-income 
workers are employed. 

   The president said "low-risk areas" in China should adjust disease-control 
measures to "fully restore production" while higher-risk areas keep their focus 
on epidemic prevention. 

   The government previously promised tax breaks, subsidies and other aid to 
entrepreneurs and farmers to cushion the blow of the most sweeping anti-disease 
controls ever imposed. 

   Forecasters say it will be at least mid-March before manufacturing and other 
industries return to normal after the government cut off most access to Wuhan, 
the city at the center of the outbreak, imposed travel controls nationwide and 
closed factories, restaurants, shopping malls and other businesses. That 
disrupted the flow of supplies to farmers and factories. 

   Xi mentioned possible use of monetary policy and more cuts in taxes and fees 
to support job creation but announced no specific initiatives.

   "We must promptly solve the outstanding problems that affect spring plowing 
and organize production, circulation and supply of materials to ensure 
production does not miss the farming time," Xi was cited as saying.

   Local officials previously were ordered to make sure food supplies flow to 
populous Chinese cities following panic buying after the shutdown of access to 
Wuhan. Villages have been banned from setting up roadblocks to keep away 
outsiders and possible infection. 

   The government must "actively organize" production of vegetables, livestock 
and poultry and "unblock transportation channels," the president said.


(KR)

 
 
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