WUHAN, China — The Chinese government scrambled on Monday to contain not only the coronavirus epidemic but also growing expressions of public fury over the management of the crisis.
Premier Li Keqiang, the prime minister of the Chinese government, flew into Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, to show support for medical workers and to pledge needed medical supplies — only to be mocked online for leading workers in an encouraging cheer.
Mr. Li’s visit, which featured prominently in state media, came as Wuhan’s mayor, Zhou Xianwang, acknowledged that local authorities had moved too slowly in the first days of the crisis.
In an interview with CCTV, the main state television network, the mayor said that information about the coronavirus had not been shared with the public in a timely manner, and that he and the city’s Communist Party secretary, Ma Guoqiang, were prepared to resign to “appease public indignation.”
“Our names will live in infamy for shutting the door” of the city, Mr. Zhou said. “But we believe that as long as it helps to control the disease, helps keep people’s lives safe, Comrade Ma Guoqiang and I will shoulder any responsibility,” Mr. Zhou said.
The offer to resign, which was not immediately acted on, suggested that China’s harshly practical party hierarchy could settle on local officials like the mayor and the party secretary as sacrifices to ease public ire over a spiraling public health crisis that also threatens to take a large economic toll.
With the death toll rising to at least 81, and infections spreading to still more countries, the impacts reverberated globally. Stocks tumbled and oil prices fell on Monday as the virus’s spread worried investors worldwide.
The S&P 500 fell 1.6 percent, its sharpest decline in nearly four months, with shares of airlines and companies dependent on tourism from China particularly hard hit.
Major stock benchmarks in Europe were down more than 2 percent. While many markets in Asia were closed for the holiday, Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index sank 2 percent.
China’s currency also fell, while investors moved into safe havens like gold.
In China, the government announced that it would extend for three days the weeklong holiday for the Lunar New Year, which had been scheduled to end on Thursday. The country’s economy, which is experiencing its worst slowdown in nearly three decades, is already hurting from the impact of the outbreak, and there are fears that consumer spending will fall as residents stay home over the extended holiday.
In Beijing, where 72 cases had been reported by Monday morning, officials warned that anyone who returned to the city from other parts of China must confine themselves to their homes for 14 days.
That could significantly reduce the city’s work force even after the extended holiday ends. Hundreds of millions of people travel during the holiday, which began on Saturday, and would normally begin returning in the coming days.
In Shanghai, the country’s financial center, the authorities ordered businesses to stay closed until midnight on Feb. 9. In nearby Suzhou, a large manufacturing hub, businesses there were ordered to open no sooner than Feb. 8. Some companies, including the internet giant Tencent, also told their workers to stay home until Feb. 10.
The epidemic has already shuttered many major tourist attractions, including the Disney theme parks in Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as the Forbidden City and sections of the Great Wall outside of Beijing.
Major film studios postponed the opening of movies at what would normally have been a peak viewing season, while several sporting events were canceled or postponed. China’s professional basketball league, the C.B.A., announced that it would suspend its season indefinitely.
The crisis has emerged as an unexpected challenge for the Communist Party leadership, especially for President Xi Jinping, who said nothing in public about the matter until he convened an extraordinary meeting of the party’s Politburo Standing Committee on Saturday.
Mr. Li, an economist who has been premier since 2013, has taken the formal lead of China’s crisis management team for the epidemic. But the much more powerful Mr. Xi, who is also the Communist Party leader, has signaled that he is the real power in charge.
Only days earlier, Mr. Li had reflected less urgency about the viral outbreak when discussing it — without wearing a medical mask — while meeting medical workers in faraway Qinghai province.
On Monday, by contrast, he made several appearances around Wuhan, visiting a hospital, where he promised to deliver 20,000 surgical masks, and a supermarket, where — now wearing a mask — he led workers in a chant.
“Wuhan,” he said. “Jia you,” they responded in chorus, using a phrase that means “add oil” but is roughly translated as a rousing “Go!”
On Twitter, which is blocked in China, the gesture was mocked. “Wuhan pneumonia is afraid of slogans,” one user posted in Chinese.
Wuhan’s residents have largely hunkered down to quietly wait out the epidemic. They mostly stay inside their homes, venturing out for supplies and food, medical visits and occasional bursts of exercise.
Still, several said they had heard about Mr. Li’s visit and welcomed it as a sign that the central leadership was committed to supporting the city and surrounding areas, which have been locked down since last week.
“This shows that they’re getting serious,” said Shao Shigui, a retired steelworker from southwest China who was strolling on a promenade by the Yangtze River. He had come to Wuhan with his wife to help their daughter, who is pregnant, and said he was taking a break from the monotony of staying indoors.
“In China, if a leader visits, that shows that all the resources of the government can be mobilized,” he said.
The United States, Japan, France, Russia and other countries, meanwhile, scrambled to get citizens who were trapped in the city out, after the government shut down the major modes of transportation.
Since then the city of 11 million has descended into a surreal quiet — except around the hospitals.
Most shops remained closed, but supermarkets, fresh produce stores and pharmacies opened, although many pharmacies have run out of protective masks, hand disinfectant and other supplies needed to protect against the virus.
Residents with fevers and coughs who worried that they may have contracted the coronavirus continued to line up at clinics and hospitals, but in fewer numbers than previous days. The streets were mostly free of cars, and many residents walked or rode bicycles to do their shopping.
“It’s possible to live, but it’s not a real New Year,” said Qiu Dongjun, a 38-year-old construction worker from rural Hubei who was carrying a bag of groceries. “I’ve been eating so many containers of instant noodles that my mouth and nose are flaming raw.”
He said Mr. Li’s visit was a promising political gesture.
“People in Wuhan have many practical problems,” he said. “How will our wages get paid? What if businesses go under? Who will ensure we get our unpaid wages? These are practical problems,” he said, his voice partly muffled by his protective mask.
“You can’t expect all those problems to be solved in Beijing,” he said before walking off.
The mayor of Wuhan, Mr. Zhou, defended his actions even as he accepted responsibility for falling short. He said he had been hampered from alerting the public sooner because of the reporting rules under the laws governing disease outbreaks. He suggested he had to wait for approval from higher-level officials.
One woman responded angrily in the comments page below the People’s Daily’s live stream of the mayor’s interview on Weibo, the popular Chinese social media platform. She noted that the government had informed the World Health Organization on Dec. 31, but not the public most directly affected until Jan. 20.
“The Wuhan government will be condemned throughout the ages if it turns the map of China all red,” she wrote, referring to maps depicting the spread of the virus.
After weeks of limited steps before the gravity of the epidemic was recognized, government agencies have galvanized to fight the crisis, setting aside other priorities for now.
The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission said in a notice dated Sunday that banks “must not blindly call in loans, cut off lending or hold off on lending” in response to the crisis.
On Monday, State Grid, the government-controlled electricity provider, said it would halt the shut-off of electricity to residents whose bills fall into arrears while authorities deal with the outbreak.
Chris Buckley reported from Wuhan and Steven Lee Myers from Beijing. Raymond Zhong, Alexandra Stevenson and Katie Robertson contributed reporting. Elsie Chen, Claire Fu, Zoe Mou and Elaine Yu contributed research.