BEIJING (REUTERS) - China tentatively plans to hold its delayed annual gathering of Parliament in late April or early May, two people involved in preparations told Reuters, as coronavirus cases in the country drop sharply even as they surge elsewhere.
The annual meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), known as the "two sessions", were usually scheduled for early March, but were delayed due to the virus outbreak, with no new date announced. The NPC is China's Parliament, while the CPPCC is the country's top advisory body.
Holding the meetings, which typically draw a combined 5,000 delegates to Beijing's Great Hall of the People, would be a major indication that the Chinese leadership sees things as returning to normal.
The outbreak that originated in central China's Wuhan city has infected more than 80,800 people in the country, killed over 3,200 and wreaked economic havoc, causing factory output to plunge at the sharpest pace in three decades.
The NPC's timing is not finalised, and one of the people said the number of attendees may be reduced, with those visiting from outside Beijing needing to undergo quarantine.
People now arriving in the capital from elsewhere in China must spend two weeks in quarantine.
"We still have to play it by ear, as the coronavirus rapidly spreads across the world," said the person, declining to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.
The NPC usually sits for at least 10 days. The CPPCC, which runs in parallel, normally starts two days earlier.
During the annual Parliament sessions, legislators pass laws and unveil economic targets, defence spending projections and other important policy decisions. It is also an occasion for the Chinese Communist Party to announce major policy and personnel changes.
This year, the NPC is expected to discuss the recent months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, with China's economy also expected to be a key item on the agenda.
China's factory production plunged at the sharpest pace in 30 years in the first two months of the year due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 outbreak, data on Monday (March 16) showed.
Urban investment and retail sales also fell sharply and for the first time ever.
The health ministry said last week China had passed the peak of its the virus epidemic. As locally transmitted cases plunge, most new reported cases in recent days have been imported, according to government data.