China's top leadership group headed by President Xi Jinping has admitted lapses and shortcomings in the Communist Party of China (CPC)-ruled country's response to the raging Coronavirus outbreak.
The CPC politburo's standing committee issued a statement late on Monday talking about "shortcomings and deficiencies" in the response as the outbreak death toll reached 425 and total number of infected shot up to more than 20,000 in China.
The 64 new deaths and more than 3,000 new infections mark the single biggest rise in toll in a day.
It's a clear indication that numbers will rise exponentially in the coming weeks as new infections – of the disease that's transmissible between humans – are reported.
The number of deaths in China, excluding Hong Kong, now exceeds the 349 killed on the mainland in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
More than 150 cases have been reported from over two dozen countries with one death – that of a Chinese citizen from worst-hit Wuhan in central China -- in the Philippines.
Official news agency, Xinhua, published a report on the meeting of the powerful seven-member standing committee of CPC's politburo held Monday evening.
"We will improve the national emergency management system and improve our ability to deal with urgent, difficult and dangerous tasks in light of the shortcomings and deficiencies exposed in the response to this outbreak," the meeting discussed.
One area to be tackled is the trade in illegal wildlife, which should be "resolutely banned," while supervision of markets should be strengthened.
"The outbreak is a major test of China's system and capacity for governance, and we must sum up the experience and draw a lesson from it," according to the statement on the meeting.
The meeting stressed improving the country's emergency management system and capacity of handling urgent, difficult, dangerous and important tasks.
"An overhaul of environmental sanitation conditions should be conducted, the meeting said, calling for efforts to strengthen the areas of weakness in public health," the statement said.
The meeting, according to Xinhua, underscored the need to systematically review the areas of weakness in the national reserve system, enhance reserve efficiency and capacity, and improve the production capacity for essential supplies.
Meanwhile, the central Chinese province of Hubei, and its capital, Wuhan, continue to be at the centre of the epidemic with the province reporting 2,345 new cases of novel coronavirus, with 64 new deaths and 101 recovered on Feb 3; total infected number of the province rose to 13,522, with 396 recovered and 414 dead.
In addition to the designated Huoshenshan and Leishenshan hospitals – rapidly built in days -- to meet growing demand from coronavirus patients, Wuhan will convert Hongshan Stadium and Wuhan International Conference & Exhibition Center into hospitals so it can provide 1,000 beds, local authorities have said.
In a worrying development, "cluster cases" of the outbreak have begun appearing in different regions of China including in Beijing, China's sprawling capital with more than 21 million population.
A cluster of coronavirus infection cases was seen in a Beijing hospital, as nine patients including five medical personnel and four hospitalised patients were infected.