China leader Xi Jinping knew about coronavirus scale much earlier than believed

Xi Jinping mentioned the plan in a January meeting to tell the officials how to tackle the outbreak (Image: XINHUA/AFP via Getty Images)

Chinese president Xi Jinping was long aware of the coronavirus outbreak and has outlined a contingency plan for strict disease control in a private political party meeting.

A full transcript of the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) meeting on February 3 revealed that Xi was aware of the outbreak in January 7, just a week after the first coronavirus case was confirmed.

He said: "Since the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, I had listed a few requests in regards of disease control during the PSC meeting on January 7.

"On January 20, I have specifically ordered the disease control department to stay alert and monitor the outbreak. I have also asked the party committee members, local governments and officials to place a high priority on the public's health and safety."

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However, China's state broadcast Xinhua fail to mention Xi's plan for the coronavirus outbreak, according to Hong Kong media.

Millions of members of the public expressed their anger over how local governments suppressed information of the deadly outbreak until Wuhan was placed on lockdown.

A Chinese doctor who tried to issue the first warning about the illness was arrested and given warnings of 'spreading rumours'.

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Whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang later died of coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic.

The Chinese government has since fired provincial officials in Hubei and Wuhan as they were facing criticism over its handling of the outbreak.

SEE ALSO: China virus cases pass 70,000 as WHO mission begins

The Covid-19 outbreak has spread to 25 countries around the globe, with 1,666 deaths including one in France.

Javier Hernandez, the Beijing correspondent for the New York Times said on a podcast earlier this month: "China’s authoritarian culture in many ways set the stage for this crisis.

"For decades, China has built this ruthless system in which if you are an official in the Communist Party you re expected to be almost perfect.

"If anything goes bad you are the one who is going to take responsibility and fall. This has created an incentive system where local officials fear saying anything about bad news."

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Chinese president Xi JinpingDr Li WenliangCovid-19Coronavirus