China canceled the central event of its political calendar because of the coronavirus, a stark symbol of how it has lost control of the outbreak

xi jinping

China cancelled the central event of its political calendar because of the crippling impact of the coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 2,500 people there.

China was due to kick off the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing, which symbolically approves the nation's political agenda for the year, on March 5.
But China's state television said on Monday that the event is now postponed, with no new date decided, Reuters reported.

State television said that a new date for the event, which typically runs for 10 days, would come soon, but gave no further details, Reuters reported.

Early in the progress of the outbreak, commentators predicted that if the disease kept worsening then the event would likely have to be scrapped.

All external visitors to Beijing are currently put into a mandatory 14-day quarantine, which would make the logistics of a large, national event almost impossible.

Nonetheless, formally abandoning their plans is a stark move that makes clear the authorities there could not exert sufficient control over the virus to protect even their most important event. The standing committee of the Congress met earlier on Monday before making the decision.

More than 5,000 delegates gather for the event, which runs over two sessions.

An anonymous source familiar with the organization of the events last week told the South China Morning Post that the meetings would be an unacceptable health risk, Business Insider's Mia Jankowicz reported.

"The health risk of convening the annual sessions early next month would be too high when the coronavirus outbreak has not yet been effectively contained," they said.

"The risk of cross infections would be very high for nearly 8,000 people … as well as staff responsible for administering the meetings, under the same roof of the Great Hall of the People."

The coronavirus has now infected more than 70,000 people in China, and has spread to at least 29 other countries.