China’s top leadership has admitted “shortcomings and deficiencies” in the country’s response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The Politburo Standing Committee said the national emergency management system had to improve.
A crackdown on wildlife markets, where the virus emerged, has been ordered.
By the end of Monday, more than 20,000 cases and 425 deaths had been reported in China – an increase of more than 3,000 confirmed cases in a single day.
On Monday alone, there had been 64 new deaths, China’s National Health Commission said – all in Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated.
The number of deaths in China, excluding Hong Kong, now exceeds the 349 killed on the mainland in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) outbreak of 2002-03. But the mortality rate of the new virus is much lower than that of Sars, suggesting it is not as deadly.
There are more than 150 cases in other countries, with one death in the Philippines.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong confirmed its first death from the coronavirus. Broadcaster RTHK said the 39-year-old man, who suffered from an underlying illness, had visited Wuhan on 21 January.
The Centre for Health Protection said he had not visited any health care facilities, wet markets or seafood markets, according to the report.
The virus is thought to have originated from a wildlife market in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.
The new coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.
What has the Politburo said?
Reports of the standing committee meeting, chaired by President Xi Jinping, were carried by the official Xinhua news agency.
It said lessons had to be learned from what had been a “big test” of China’s governance system.
“In response to the shortcomings and deficiencies that were exposed responding to this epidemic, we must improve our national emergency management system and improve our abilities in handling urgent and dangerous tasks,” the report said.
One area to be tackled is the trade in illegal wildlife, which should be “resolutely banned”, while supervision of markets should be strengthened.
It is thought a market in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province was the source of the viral outbreak. On Monday, a study by a Chinese virologist said bats were the likely source.
Wuhan remains the “top priority” and additional medical staff will be sent there, the committee said.
It said officials should assume full responsibility for their duties in epidemic prevention, and that those who failed to perform them would be punished.
It has been revealed that two officials in the town of Huajiahe were removed from their posts after a teenager with cerebral palsy died when his father – and sole carer – was quarantined for suspected coronavirus. (BBC)