Screenshot from MFA Daily Briefing Online's wechat account.
The first Foreign Ministry news conference after the Spring Festival vacation was not held in the blue hall, as is often the venue, but via a WeChat group involving over 200 journalists.
Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying answered 20 questions in 65 minutes on Monday.
It was the first time the ministry, the world's only diplomatic department with news conferences every working day, held one online.
The online option was taken to protect journalists' health and provide them with timely information, according to a notice the spokesperson's office sent to media outlets.
Monday was the first working day after the State Council announced a nationwide extension of the Lunar New Year holiday to Sunday in connection with the novel coronavirus epidemic. A number of companies, schools and government departments now require their employees to work from home until the epidemic subsides.
Jiang Huizhong, an English teacher at an international school in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, now assigns online homework for students, who initially would have returned to school on Monday.
"Teachers and students in our school are from different countries. As some airlines canceled their China flights due to the epidemic, online is the best way to continue our teaching in this situation," Jiang said.
Distance learning allows the students to continue their studies in the relative safety of their homes, she said, but it is also less efficient than classroom learning.
Jia Yanzhao, a programmer at a foreign e-commerce company, said telecommuting is a flexible option that could effectively reduce the risk of being infected with the virus.
Jia started working from home on Monday, saying it is not new to him. With a computer and the internet, he said, he could continue doing so.
"Working from home under the current situation helps avoid crowds gathering, reduces the risk of getting infected while commuting to work and saves medical supplies that are already in short supply, like the face masks," he said.
However, it could increase the costs of communication, he said.
"Working from home helps us feel safe during the outbreak because everyone is isolated," said Liu Yue, who runs a company importing cosmetics from South Korea.
"I didn't ask my staff to return to work as soon as possible. Instead, all of us discuss work online, which ensures my employees' safety," she said, adding that it is worthwhile to sacrifice efficiency for safety.
Telecommuting, if it can be promoted, will save small and medium-sized enterprises that rely on the internet a large amount of money in office rent, she added.