China’s Xi warns virus is ‘accelerating’, country facing ‘grave situation’

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Chinese President Xi Jinping warned China was facing a “grave situation” given the “accelerating spread” of a new SARS-like virus that has infected nearly 1,300 people across the country, state media reported Saturday.

“Faced with the grave situation of an accelerating spread of the new coronavirus... it is necessary to strengthen the centralized and unified leadership of the Party Central Committee,” Xi said, according to official news agency Xinhua.

The comments come as Chinese authorities scramble to contain the new virus, which first emerged in central Wuhan city, but has spread to at least 30 regions and provinces in China.

Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities will suspend both domestic and overseas Chinese group tours, state media reported on Saturday.

Starting Monday, all overseas group tour services, including hotel and plane ticket bookings, from Chinese travel agencies will be suspended, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Domestic tour groups were suspended from Friday, it said.

Wuhan authorities put the city and its 11 million inhabitants under effective quarantine on Thursday - with provincial authorities in Hubei later expanding the transport ban to at least 18 cities.

Regions far from the epidemic epicenter, such as Beijing, have also started to clamp down on the flow of people, as the death toll from the virus rises to at least 41.

On Saturday, the country’s capital said it would suspend buses that entered and exited the city boundary, on top of closing tourist attractions and cancelling large-scale events during the Lunar New Year holiday.

“As long as we have steadfast confidence, work together, scientific prevention and cures, and precise policies, we will definitely be able to win the battle,” Xi told a meeting of the elite Politburo Standing Committee, according to Xinhua.

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