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As coronavirus takes economic toll, Xi says China to prevent major layoffs

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects the novel coronavirus prevention and control work at Anhuali Community in Beijing

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday the government would prevent large-scale layoffs amid the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese state television reported, as he appeared among the public for the first time since the epidemic started.

The Chinese leader has largely kept out of the spotlight during the outbreak, while Premier Li Keqiang, who has visited Wuhan city where the epidemic started, has taken the lead in government efforts to end the crisis.

Xi inspected efforts by community workers in Beijing to contain the virus, visited a local hospital that offers treatment to coronavirus patients and video-chatted with frontline medical staff in Wuhan.

"We must have confidence that we will eventually win this battle against the epidemic," Xi told medical staff during the visit to Ditan hospital.

Wearing a surgical mask, Xi had his temperature checked by a community worker and waved to residents in their apartments, according to footage from state broadcaster CCTV.

The virus, which has killed more than 900 people, has forced Beijing to extend holidays in manufacturing centres and impose severe population controls in major cities, exacerbating a slowdown in the world's second biggest economy.

State television reported Xi as saying that China will strive to meet its economic and social targets for the year and make economic adjustments to minimise the impact of the virus.

He said the government would take more decisive measures to curb its spread in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province.

Xi has appeared at other high-level government events in recent weeks. He met visiting Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen last week and World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in late January.


(Reporting by Lusha Zhang, Stella Qiu, Brenda Goh and Se Young Lee; Editing by Giles Elgood)