China’s new message to the world

China has a new message: we're back on the rise.

The country's President Xi Jinping finally visited the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan, in a symbolic attempt to project an image of political stability.

The embattled leader, who until now had not visited the area, started at a command centre next to the Huoshenshan hospital, where he talked over video chat with medical workers and hospital patients.

 

He was wearing an aqua N95 face mask - an upgrade from the simple surgical mask he had worn in Beijing.

Chinese state media lauded the event, with Xinhua posting a short video entitled 'The People's Leader Commanding the decisive battle'.

State media claimed he visited patients directly, noting where he lauded medical workers as "the most beautiful angels" and "messengers of light and hope".

"All prevention and control measures taken by the CPC Central Committee against the virus are to prevent more people from being infected and save more patients' lives," Mr Xi said.

He spoke to a coronavirus victim who was in bed wearing striped pyjamas, with two healthcare workers in hazmat suits at his side.

"You should build your confidence, we should together build our confidence, and together we will win this war," Mr Xi said. "Wuhan must win, Hubei must win, and the whole of China must win."

"Hubei and Wuhan have been the very most decisive battleground in this struggle to contain the epidemic," he added in later remarks. "Through arduous efforts, there has been a promising turn in epidemic containment in Hubei and Wuhan, and we've achieved important interim results."

 

In Wuhan, the Chinese government has declared several neighbourhoods to be virus-free.

Bear in mind, Mr Xi has been fairly invisible throughout this crisis. Towards the end of January - as the virus infection rate was soaring in China - he seemed to disappear entirely, emerging only two weeks later at a tightly-controlled tour in Beijing on February 11.

The purpose of the symbolic trip was to show that the Chinese government believes the worst of the coronavirus outbreak is behind them, and comes as a number of Chinese cities have announced plans to loosen their restrictions on millions of people.

In a way, this is damage control for Mr Xi. The government initially received heavy criticism for suppressing information about the virus and delaying their response to combating it.

With the rate of infections now slowing, and other countries slowly beginning to follow their lead in locking down regions and imposing restrictions on people, China can portray itself as a leader in the fight.

The Chinese leader's trip followed just hours after global stock markets suffered their worst single-day loss since the 2008 great financial crisis and a sharp drop in oil prices.

The rate of infections being reported out of China has dramatically slowed, with just 19 new infections on Tuesday, including 17 and Wuhan and one each in Beijing and Guangdong.

It was the lowest daily number since China started providing daily reports on January 20.

But elsewhere around the world, the number of coronavirus cases is accelerating, with the number of confirmed cases across Western Europe and the United States rising sharply day by day.

Globally more than 4000 people have died from the virus and over 113,000 cases have been recorded.

The virus has killed 168 more people in Italy in the past 24 hours, as a nationwide lockdown took place on the country's 60 million people.

The World Health Organisation says people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while severe cases may last three to six weeks.

In mainland China, almost three quarters of its more than 80,000 patients have recovered.


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