China will consider postponing the annual meeting of its national parliament scheduled in early March at a meeting on Feb. 24 as the country focuses on containing the outbreak of a new pneumonia-causing coronavirus, official media reported Monday.

In order to prioritize the prevention and control of the epidemic, the National People's Congress Standing Committee chairpersons' meeting "considered it necessary to postpone" the 13th session of the congress, Zang Tiewei, a spokesperson for the committee, told Xinhua News Agency in an interview.

Every year, the congress takes place for around 10 days from March 5 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where around 3,000 delegates gather from across the nation to discuss and endorse key policies for the coming year.

One-third of these delegates at the provincial and municipal levels are "fighting at the frontlines" of the epidemic, Zang added.

The virus, named COVID-19, is believed to have originated in December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, known as a major business and transportation hub with a population of some 11 million. It has so far infected over 70,000 and killed over 1,700 in China.

The congress has convened March 5 every year since 1998. Even in 2003, when a virus causing severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, raged in China, the annual session of the congress was held.

Local-level meetings, which are supposed to be held prior to the national congress, have been delayed successively in major cities such as Guangdong and Qingdao.

A postponement of the parliamentary session would make it more difficult for President Xi Jinping's government to swiftly implement measures to shore up the country's lackluster economy and could push back planned state visits such as one to Japan in the spring, some foreign affairs experts say.

Related coverage:

China mulls delaying annual parliament meeting amid virus spread: sources

China's foreign policy chief Yang to visit Japan on Feb. 28-29

Singapore, Thailand lower growth projections amid coronavirus outbreak