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China’s Xi knew of crisis weeks before going public

President Xi Jinping on Sunday published a timeline of his actions to combat the coronavirus racing through China as the Communist Party worked to tamp down criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis.

The timeline, however, indicates Xi was aware of the outbreak’s severity two weeks before making the revelations public.

The timeline is part of a speech Xi gave to party leaders Feb. 3 that was published in state media. Xi outlined the government response to the COVID-19 outbreak that he warned could jeopardize health as well as economic and social stability.

“I issued demands during a Politburo Standing Committee meeting on Jan. 7 for work to contain the outbreak,” Xi said in the speech. “On Jan. 20, I gave special instructions about the work to prevent and control the outbreak.”

Within days, Xi began ordering entire cities shut down to slow the outbreak. Several cities and about 60 million people remained essentially under quarantine Sunday, and some of those lockdowns were tightened. The government of Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak, locked down all residential communities in urban and rural areas, closed non-essential public places and banned public gatherings and the use of private vehicles.

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