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Xi tells officials not to hurt economy in virus fight, sources claim

Chinese president warns staff against 'more restrictive measures' as WHO officially names virus Covid-19

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping warned top officials last week that efforts to contain the coronavirus - officially named Covid-19 yesterday by the World Health Organisation (WHO) - had gone too far, threatening the country's economy, sources said.

With growth at its slowest in nearly three decades, China's leaders seem eager to strike a balance between protecting an already-slowing economy and stamping out an epidemic.

After reviewing reports on the outbreak from the National Development and Reform Commission and other economic departments, Mr Xi told local officials during a Feb 3 meeting of the Politburo's Standing Committee that some of the actions taken to contain the virus have been harming the economy, said two people familiar with the meeting who declined to be named. He urged them to refrain from "more restrictive measures", they said.

China's National Health Commission reported there were 108 coronavirus deaths yesterday, a daily record, bringing the total number of people killed in the country to more than 1,000.

There were 2,478 new confirmed cases in the country on Monday, down from 3,062 the previous day, bringing the total to more than 42,500.

As the Chinese continue to try and get to grips with the deadly outbreak, the WHO finally announced the coronavirus will be named Covid-19.

"We now have a name for the disease and it's Covid-19," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, explaining that "co" stood for "corona", "vi" for "virus" and "d" for "disease".

This is in line with guidelines stipulating that the name should not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or a group of people, but needed to be pronounceable and related to the disease.

Dr Tedros said having a name for the virus also prevents the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatising.

GRAVE THREAT

He warned that the spread of cases outside of China could be "the spark that becomes a bigger fire," and appealed for the sharing of virus samples and speeding up research into drugs and vaccines.

Dr Tedros was addressing the start of a two-day meeting aimed at accelerating the development of drugs, diagnostics and vaccines against the flu-like virus amid growing concerns about its ability to spread.

"With 99 per cent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country, but one that (also) holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world," he told around 400 researchers and national authorities.

Dr Tedros referred to "some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China", citing cases this week in France and Britain."The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire. But for now it's only a spark. Our objective remains containment," he said.

Dr Tedros said in the meeting that "the bottom line is solidarity, solidarity, solidarity".He added that to defeat this outbreak "we need open and equitable sharing, according to the principles of fairness and equity". - REUTERS

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