[Forbes] Chinese President Xi Jinping Knew About Coronavirus Two Weeks Before Informing The Public
Topline: Chinese President Xi Jinping was aware of the coronavirus two weeks before he acknowledged it publicly, according to an internal speech published by state media, an admission that could fuel more criticism as China's Communist Party faces intense international and domestic backlash for its handling of the deadly virus.
- In remarks to top government officials earlier this month, Xi said he "issued demands about the efforts to prevent and control" on January 7-two weeks before he made his first public comments about the virus on January 20.
- The speech was published by state media in an apparent effort to show that Xi took charge of the country's response from the beginning, but it may result in more criticism that the Chinese government didn't sound the alarm early enough.
- The Chinese officials have been facing unprecedented anger from citizens who say the government suppressed information about the severity of the outbreak early on.
- In response to the fury, local government officials have been fired.
Key background: The Chinese public has focused their anger around the case of Li Wenliang, a doctor who was punished for attempting to warn the public about the dangers of the virus in December. Local authorities asked him to sign a letter acknowledging he made "false comments" after he wrote about the virus in his medical school alumni group on messaging service WeChat. Li later contracted coronavirus and eventually died on February 7, resulting in an outpouring of fury and grief over how he was treated.
News peg: The number of confirmed cases declined for the third straight day on Sunday, giving hope its spread may be slowing, but health officials warn Covid-19 is unpredictable. In total, 68,500 people have been infected and 1,669 have died, Chinese health authorities said.
Tangent: The Word Health Organization is under scrutiny for praising China's efforts in combating the virus.
Further reading: Read Xi's full speech here.
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