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Hubei deputies eager to discuss health topics

By Cui Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2020-05-22 08:42
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Cui Jia.

Compared with legislators from other parts of China, National People's Congress deputies from Hubei, the province hit hardest by the novel coronavirus, are more eager to bring their views about public health to the NPC session.

As one of a handful of reporters allowed to enter the hotel of the Hubei delegation, I got the chance of talking with some of the legislators after they arrived in Beijing on Wednesday. Many of their proposals and suggestions are related to epidemic control, as people from Hubei believe they have a deeper understanding of the issue given they were on the front line fighting COVID-19.

The pandemic also exposed holes in the country's response system to major public health emergencies that needed to be fixed urgently, they said.

Lawmakers believe that the annual session of the NPC, which started Friday after China effectively contained the epidemic, is the best platform and the fastest way for them to pass on to the central government the lessons they had learned battling the novel coronavirus.

They said policymakers needed to urgently know what grassroots people required in order to boost the economy.

"There is no time to waste. At the very least, we need to help local businesses survive this year first," said Zhou Hongyu, a deputy from Hubei.

Zhou is not exaggerating. I've witnessed small businesses struggling to survive in Wuhan, Hubei's capital.

From Jan 23 to April 8, Wuhan was placed under lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading. After the lockdown was lifted, I went to Wuhan to see how life was returning to normal in the city.

People there had made great sacrifices, both personally and financially, during the lockdown. However, the aftermath was more severe than I'd imagined. Many small and micro business owners were worried about being unable to pay their rent and having fewer customers.

Ying Yong, Party chief of Hubei, said on Tuesday before the Hubei delegation departed for Beijing, that the province is facing great pressure in economic development and securing people's livelihoods after the epidemic. Although the central and Hubei governments have introduced a series of measures, including tax cuts and rent exemptions, to help local businesses, many NPC deputies said they are looking forward to discussing more practical measures during the upcoming session that can be quickly put in place.

Zhou showed me four versions of the list of proposals and suggestions he had prepared. The number of the proposals and suggestions increased from 20 to 29 because he kept on adding ideas on better preparing China for a major public health event and supporting the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

"We found some articles regarding epidemic control in different laws were inconsistent, which sometimes delayed the speed of the response. Those inconsistencies can only be exposed in circumstances such as the novel coronavirus outbreak. We must fix the holes fast," Zhou said.

The lockdown and other epidemic control measures in Hubei have made it difficult for NPC deputies to conduct field research to draft proposals and suggestions, so many deputies, including Zhou, have become skilled in the use of social media so they can connect with the public.

Zhou said the responses were different from previous years.

"People told me all about their concerns over their businesses or livelihoods instead of telling me about their achievements," he said.

Helping small and micro businesses survive this difficult time is not only crucial to the country's economy and employment rate. For an ordinary customer like me, I'd love to see the small noodle shop I frequently visit in Wuhan survive. The public might not have the chance to talk with decision-makers, but their representatives-the NPC deputies-have, and I believe they will.



Cui Jia



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