Beijing: President Xi Jinping visited China’s virus epicenter Tuesday for the first time since cases of a then-unidentified respiratory illness emerged in the city of Wuhan in December.
The visit came as people gradually began to return to work in other parts of China while the virus spreads to most of the world, seriously impacting travel, markets and the global economy.
Following China’s example, the Italian government tightened a quarantine and imposed travel restrictions around much of the country.
The disease’s spread in China cast scrutiny on Xi’s leadership, as he was conspicuously absent from the public eye during the early days of the crisis. Initial failures to react quickly were pegged on municipal and provincial-level officials who have since been replaced.
State media reported Xi arrived in the morning in Wuhan, which has been under lockdown along with several nearby cities since late January in a disease-containment measure.
“The spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been basically curbed in Hubei province and its capital city Wuhan,” Xi said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“Initial success has been made in stabilising the situation and turning the tide in Hubei and Wuhan,” he said.
China's progress against the outbreak stands in stark contrast with the growing global crisis, with cases now growing at a faster pace abroad, and Italy enacting its own nationwide travel restrictions.
Xi will inspect the epidemic prevention and control work and visit medical workers, community volunteers, patients and others on the front lines, state media said.
Amid questions about Xi’s involvement, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang had visited Wuhan in late January....