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Coronavirus: First US citizen in Wuhan is dead in China

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Coronavirus

A U.S. citizen in Wuhan, China, has died from the new coronavirus, officials at the American Embassy in Beijing said Saturday.

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The embassy said that the 60-year old American died Feb. 6 in Wuhan. A Japanese citizen is also reported to have died in Wuhan of viral pneumonia, likely caused by the coronavirus, although that has not been confirmed.

The United States says it offering up to $100 million to China and other countries affected by the deadly coronavirus to combat its spread, as the death toll rises in China to 722.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement Friday.

“This commitment – along with the hundreds of millions generously donated by the American private sector – demonstrates strong U.S. leadership in response to the outbreak,” he said.

Trump praises Xi

Earlier in the day, U.S. President Donald Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to combat the coronavirus as Xi faced mounting domestic criticism following the virus-related death of a physician who issued an early warning about the outbreak.

After a Friday telephone conversation with Xi, Trump praised China’s response and said Xi was leading “what will be a very successful operation.” Trump then continued to applaud Xi on Twitter, describing him as “strong, sharp and powerfully focused.”

“Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!” Trump added.

China’s official account of Friday’s conversation did not include references to Chinese complaints of the Trump administration’s reaction to the outbreak that included being the first country to close its diplomatic office in Wuhan and order diplomats to leave the country.

Anger at doctor’s death

The death of a Chinese doctor who was censored by Communist Party authorities after warning of a new, then-unidentified virus in December has triggered an outpouring of online anger at party authorities for its tight control on information about the crisis.

Police had accused Dr. Li Wenliang, who died Friday morning local time at Wuhan Central Hospital, of “spreading rumors online” and “severely disrupting social order.”

However, Li was widely praised by many, including by China Center for Disease Control chief scientist Zeng Guang.

“A hero who released information about Wuhan’s epidemic in the early stage, Dr. Li Wenliang is immortal,” Zeng wrote on the Sina Weibo microblog page.

The ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily wrote on Twitter, “We deeply mourn the death of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang … After all-effort rescue, Li passed away.”

In response to the uproar in China over the government’s treatment of Li, the Communist Party announced Friday it would send a team to Wuhan — the epicenter of the outbreak — to “fully investigate relevant issues raised by the public.”

Rising death toll

Officials in China said the death toll by the end of Friday was 722 while new cases jumped to 31,774. The death toll has now surpassed the number of deaths from the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak in China and Hong Kong.

Chinese President Xi has declared a “people’s war” on the coronavirus outbreak, as the death toll grows by the day.

“The whole country has responded with all its strength to respond with the most thorough and strict prevention and control measures, starting a people’s war for epidemic prevention and control,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency quotes Xi as saying.

The World Health Organization says it is too early to confirm one Chinese official’s belief that the outbreak is about to peak.

There are about 150 confirmed cases in at least 23 other countries, including one death in the Philippines — the first outside of China — and one death in Hong Kong.

Cruise ships

Forty-one new cases were confirmed by Japan aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, moored off Japan, raising the total to 61. The 3,700 passengers, who are confined aboard this ship, face a 14-day quarantine. Fourteen days is the virus’ incubation period.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said foreign passengers on another ship carrying about 2,000 people will not be allowed to enter Japan. Abe said virus-infected passengers may be on board, while the operator of Holland America’s Westerdam denied anyone was infected. The ship is currently near Ishigaki, an island of Okinawa.

About 3,600 passengers are stuck aboard another ship remains off the Hong Kong coast, with three cases on board.

Hong Kong has shut down nearly all land and sea border crossings with the Chinese mainland after more than 2,000 medical workers walked off the job earlier this week. The city announced it would quarantine arrivals from mainland China beginning Saturday.

Taiwan announced Thursday it was banning all international cruise ships from docking at the island.

A U.S. State Department-charted plane carrying Americans who evacuated from Wuhan landed Friday morning at a military base in Southern California. A second chartered plane with Americans on board was scheduled to arrive at a military base in Northern California later Friday. The returning Americans are being quarantined for 14 days and watched for signs of the illness.

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency and is appealing for $675 million to fight the virus.

WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday the world is experiencing a “chronic shortage of personal protective equipment, such as masks and gowns.” Ghebreyesus said he was searching for potential solutions.


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