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China’s President Xi Jinping has sparked fears he may be suffering from or have contracted coronavirus. The Communist leader could be heard coughing repeatedly during a speech in Shenzhen on Wednesday. Chinese State media regularly cut away from the leader to the crowd when President Xi was coughing.
Despite this, the audio of the leader coughing could still be heard as well as President Xi sipping water to clear his throat.
The video quickly circulated on social media and some feared the Chinese President had caught the potentially deadly virus.
One wrote: “Xi Jinping may have COVID-19 his coughing fits have been edited from Chinese media.”
Another added: “During a speech in Shenzhen on Wednesday to promote the continued development of China’s first special economic zone, Chinese President Xi Jinping coughed — a lot.”
A third wrote: “Chinese leader Xi kept on coughing while delivering his speech, attracting speculation about whether he has COVID-19”.
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His visit to Shenzen came amid a tour of southern China, where he has been pictured meeting crowds without a mask, although the leader has been maintaining a distance.
China officially reports around a dozen cases of coronavirus per day, and while those numbers have been met with scepticism from some, the country’s rebounding economy suggests the virus is not as prevalent as it once was.
Beijing has been keen to show off its strength in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
An outbreak of just 13 cases in Qingdao at the weekend was enough to spark a mass testing response that saw everyone in the port city swabbed.
Officials claimed to have tested 10 million people by Thursday without detecting any more cases of the virus, a feat considered far beyond the testing capabilities of other countries.
Xi’s speech in Shenzhen marked the 40th anniversary of the former fishing village being declared the first place in China to allow free enterprise.
During his address, Xi promised to ease regulations to encourage new industries.
He also called for “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and “optimising and upgrading production”.
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The country is expected to grow its economy this year, despite earlier lockdowns, while most other world economies are projected to shrink or stagnate.
Shenzhen has been a symbol of that growth for China as it expanded from 30,000 people in 1980 to an estimated 13 million today.
Economically, its output of 2.7 trillion Yuan ($400 billion) last year was larger than that of South Africa, a country of 58 million people.
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