Beijing, January 22
The mayor of China’s Wuhan city, the epicentre of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc across the world, has abruptly resigned from his post, official media reported on Friday.
Mayor Zhou Xianwang had warned the world that over five million Wuhan residents had left for long holidays, sparking fears of the spread of the coronavirus at home and abroad.
Zhou has resigned as Wuhan’s mayor, official media reported.
His resignation was announced a day ahead of the anniversary of Wuhan’s lockdown, the city of 11 million people, which was the first in the world to go for a complete shutdown on January 23 after the revelations that the COVID-19 was airborne.
The country’s central Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, was also put into a total lockdown.
Amidst criticism of a late response by the Chinese government, Zhou had come with a shocking revelation that over five million Wuhan residents have left for holiday destinations at home and abroad to celebrate the Spring Festival and the Chinese New Year holidays.
His revelation led several countries to start imposing bans of flights from China. However, the way the COVID-19 emerged as a pandemic affecting the entire world, the bans were proved too late.
An interim report by an independent panel appointed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) early this week criticised China’s initial response, saying that “public health measures could have been applied more forcefully” though China later effectively brought the virus under control.
The Hubei province and its provincial capital Wuhan lifted a prolonged lockdown on April 8 last after the virus was brought under control.
The death toll from the virus in Hubei stood at 4,512, including 3,869 in Wuhan.
Hubei has, so far, reported 68,134 COVID-19 cases, including 50,339 in Wuhan.
China’s official death toll stood at 4,635 with over 87,900 total number of cases.
While top provincial leadership of the Communist Party of China was purged with several receiving punishments, Zhou miraculously stayed on despite coming under fire.
After millions of angry Chinese took to social media to call for his removal, Zhou told media last January that he and other officials were “willing to be sacked to appease the people as long as the pandemic is controlled”.
He admitted that the lockdown of Wuhan was a tough decision and a first in human history.
“Maybe Wuhan officials will be nailed by history with a bad reputation for doing so and locking up the virus inside the city, but as long as it helps contain the coronavirus, we are willing to take whatever responsibility, including the resignation of Wuhan Party Secretary Ma Guoqiang and myself,” Zhou told state-run CCTV last January. PTI