BEIJING – China’s top legislative body has formally decided to postpone the annual meeting of parliament originally scheduled to start on March 5, state TV reported on Monday, amid a coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 70,000 in the country.
State television said the new date for the meetings, which typically last for 10 days, would be set later. The meeting would not be delayed for too long, the report added without elaborating.
The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a largely ceremonial advisory body, will also postpone its meeting, which was due to start two days earlier, China Central Television said.
The gatherings traditionally see more than 5,000 delegates descend on Beijing from all over China for at least 10 days, to pass legislation and unveil the year’s key economic targets.
It is the first time since the current March schedule was adopted in 1995 that the meeting of parliament has been postponed.
Five people familiar with the matter told Reuters this month that China was considering delaying the meetings as Beijing grapples with the epidemic. State media reported last week that the National People’s Congress’s standing committee was evaluating a proposal to do so.
The legislative body also on Monday formally decided to ban all illegal wildlife trade and consumption in China, the report said. Wildlife is believed to be the source of the virus responsible for the epidemic.