Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak on Tuesday, the first time he has done so since the epidemic began and a sign that Beijing believes its efforts to control the virus are working.
His arrival in the city, where the virus is believed to have first taken hold late last year, comes after its spread in mainland China has sharply slowed in the past week and as attention has turned to preventing imported infections from overseas hot spots such as Iran, Italy and South Korea.
News of the visit gave a lift to Chinese stocks, with the blue-chip index Cs 1300 climbing back into positive territory after falling as much as 1% in morning trade.
“It is obvious that Xi could not have visited Wuhan earlier because the risk of him contracting the virus there was initially too high,” Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told Reuters.
“He is there now to reap the harvest. His being there means the CCP (Communist Party of China) may declare victory against the virus soon,” Zhang said.
China came in for criticism at home and globally over its early response to the outbreak, suppressing information and downplaying its risks, but its draconian efforts at control, including the lock-down of Wuhan and Hubei province where it is originated, have been effective at curbing the spread.
Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, said on Tuesday it would implement a “health code” system to allow people in areas at a medium or low risk of contracting the coronavirus to start traveling.
During his trip to Wuhan, Xi will “visit and express regards to medical workers, military officers and soldiers, community workers, police officers, officials and volunteers who have been fighting the epidemic on the front line, as well as patients and residents during the inspection,” state news agency Xinhua said.
Separately, Taiwan’s government said on Tuesday a second round of evacuations of its citizens who had been stranded in Wuhan had begun, after weeks of arguments between the Chinese-claimed island and Beijing over the arrangements