China has set a date for a major political gathering next month after delaying it for weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak in a sign of the country’s growing confidence the virus has largely been contained.

The annual meeting of its ceremonial parliament is set to open in Beijing on 22 May, the standing committee has decided, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The full session of the National People’s Congress, usually held in March, would include thousands of officials.

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It had been postponed for weeks due to Covid-19, which originated in China towards the end of last year in the central city of Wuhan.

Beijing could also start lifting restrictions aimed at preventing the virus' spread by the end of this week, according to reports.

The National People’s Congress planned for next month traditionally brings delegates from across the country by plane and train to Beijing, where they first meet to hear a state of the country address from Li Keqiang, the premier, while seated shoulder-to-shoulder in the colossal auditorium at the Great Hall of the People.

It was not clear from the report whether officials would be meeting in person or virtually.

China recorded a jump in imported cases of coronavirus on Wednesday but no new deaths from the disease it causes.

Authorities have relaxed social distancing restrictions, but have maintained strict quarantine rules on those coming from abroad or other parts of the country to ward off a second wave of virus cases as summer approaches.

The city of Beijing reportedly plans on easing quarantine rules for some domestic travellers from low-risk areas in China as soon as Thursday.

People arriving from elsewhere in the country will no longer be required to be quarantined for two weeks unless they come from high-risk areas such as Heilongjiang in the north and some parts of Guangdong in the southeast, according to sources.

Currently, even Chinese citizens who reside in Beijing are not allowed to return home without first quarantining except under special circumstances, and those who refuse to do so or follow official rules to curb the outbreak can be punished.

Since the virus originated towards the end of last year, China has reported more than 82,800 confirmed coronavirus infections and around 4,600 deaths.

The UK, Spain, France, and Italy all have death tolls of more than 20,000 as of Wednesday, while 58,611 Covid-19 patients have died in the US to date, according to a Reuters global count.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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