China picks new leaders to lead fight in virus epicenter

China on Thursday replaced its top officials in the central province of Hubei and its capital, Wuhan, the epicenter of a viral outbreak that has infected more than 45,000 people worldwide.

Former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong succeeds Jiang Chaoliang as the ruling Communist Party’s chief in the beleaguered province, the Xinhua state news agency reported, while Wang Zhonglin will take over from Ma Guoqiang as the party secretary in Wuhan.

The high-level appointments follow the sacking earlier this week of two leaders of the provincial health commission.

State media also reported that a slew of others were expelled from the party for transgressions related to the epidemic.

The public has widely criticized local officials for their handling of the outbreak of a new form of coronavirus.

The virus first surfaced December in Hubei’s capital, Wuhan, and has since spread to more than two dozen countries.

Many countries have implemented travel restrictions on recent visitors to China, which has more than 99% of the world’s reported infections.

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