BEIJING, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- With stringent anti-epidemic measures, political advisors in Beijing kicked off their annual meeting Thursday to pool wisdom for the city's development in the coming year.
The meeting came at a time when a string of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases have been reported in the national capital, sounding the alarm bell in epidemic prevention and control.
A total of 609 political advisors attended the meeting in person, while 116 others joined the discussions virtually.
The in-person attendees were asked to take nucleic acid tests after checking into the hotel and were forbidden from leaving their rooms before receiving negative results.
They were also advised to have meals at staggered timings. Physical barriers using transparent panels were erected on dining tables as part of prevention measures.
The municipal legislative meeting will open on Saturday. Both the political consultative and legislative meetings, collectively known as "two sessions," have been slashed to four and a half days, compared with six and seven days last year.
Li Wenjun, a political advisor in Beijing and chairman of pharmaceutical company Shouyao Holdings, said convening the "two sessions" after an epidemic-ravaged year can help stabilize social development and public sentiment in Beijing.
"China effectively contained the spread of the virus early on and became the only major economy to achieve positive growth in 2020," Li said, adding that he hopes the "two sessions" in Beijing will be able to inject new impetus into the city's development in 2021.
China entered the local "two sessions" season this week, with central China's Henan Province taking the lead and kicking off its annual provincial political consultative meeting on Sunday.
All attendees to Henan's "two sessions" meetings were asked to take nucleic acid tests and wear masks during meeting sessions. They also had their temperature checked on a daily basis.
On Wednesday, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region began its annual legislative meeting, where Qizhala, chairman of the regional government, said the region's GDP posted a stellar 7.8 percent growth in 2020 despite the epidemic.
A number of provincial-level regions are also scheduled to open their local "two sessions" in the coming weeks. Provinces worst hit by recent sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks, including north China's Hebei Province and northeast China's Liaoning Province, have postponed their annual meetings.
"The format of the meetings, including a plenary session and group discussion, poses the risk of cluster infections," said Zhang Sining, a researcher with Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences. "Postponing the meetings is in the interest of people's health."
Zhang noted that postponing the meetings is particularly necessary since many attendees are medical professionals and local officials who are tasked with epidemic prevention work.
"The experience of the past year tells us that we need to put people's life and health first, respect facts and scientific rules, and take effective measures," said Zhao Ji, president of Northeast University. Enditem