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Beijing to postpone NPC’s annual meet over COVID-19

Beijing, Feb 18 (IANS) The annual 10-day session of China’s National People’s Congress, (NPC) scheduled in March may be postponed on account of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the country, sources said on Tuesday.

Ahead of that another NPC meeting on February 24, is likely to discuss a draft banning illegal wildlife trading and “abolish the bad habit of eating wild animals”, sources told Xinhua news agency.

The NPC’s Standing Committee’s February 24 meeting will also discuss a proposal to delay the annual session scheduled from March 5, among other matters, Efe quoted sources telling Xinhua news agency.

Nearly 3,000 delegates from across China gather for the annual meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, held over at least 10 days, to pass bills and set the country’s main economic and political targets.

Although Xinhua did not officially confirm the postponement of the meeting, NPC spokesperson Zang Tiewei told the news agency that doing so would allow the government to focus on efforts to control the epidemic, which has so far caused 1,868 deaths and left 72,436 people infected, according to the National Health Commission (NHC) of China on Tuesday.

A third of the delegates are also government officials, who are currently working to try to contain the disease.

The new coronavirus is believed to have originated in a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where wildlife was traded illegally.

In its daily report on Tuesday midnight, the NHC also said there were 11,741 coronavirus patients in serious condition, while 12,552 people had been discharged from hospital.

The authority added that 141,552 people are under observation, with 6,242 suspected cases.

Official figures published Tuesday show an increase of 98 deaths compared to the previous day, 93 of which were recorded in Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital. The city has been under quarantine since Jan. 23.

Added to the list of new cases were 1,886 people, of which 1,807 were recorded in the province of Hubei. The Commission also added 1,701 names to the list of patients who have successfully recovered.

To date, all but five deaths — in Taiwan, Japan, France, the Philippines and Hong Kong have been recorded in mainland China and, although some 30 countries have confirmed cases, China has around 99 percent of those infected.

The symptoms of the new coronavirus, known as COVID-19, are similar to those of a cold but may be accompanied by fever and fatigue, dry cough and shortness of breath.

–IANS

sdr/in

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