Xi orders centralized response to coronavirus: ‘It is our responsibility to prevent and control it’

Health, Fitness & Food

Health care members make first aid to people as they cover their faces with sanitary masks after the first cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Hong Kong.

Miguel Candela | Getty Images

President Xi Jinping on Saturday warned that the spread of the coronavirus presents a “grave situation,” as officials from central China to Hong Kong struggle to stop the spread of the disease that has so far infected more than 1,400 people  worldwide and killed 42.

“Life is of paramount importance. When an epidemic breaks out, a command is issued. It is our responsibility to prevent and control it,” Xi said at a meeting of the leaders of the Communist Party of China, according to state-run outlet Xinhua News Agency.

The party meeting, chaired by Xi, set up a central committee to oversee work to contain the virus, according to Xinhua. Groups will be sent to Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, to work directly on the ground. Xi ordered all levels of government to “put people’s life and health as top priority,” according to Xinhua. 

China has already quarantined three cities, encompassing about 35 million people, to try to contain the spread ⁠of the virus. 

Hong Kong has declared a citywide emergency, closing primary and secondary schools for several weeks and halting flights and trains between Hong Kong and the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease was first detected.

U.S. companies like Ford, General Motors and Fiat have started restricting employee travel to Wuhan, and French automaker PSA group said it plans to evacuate its employees and their families from the locked-down city. The State Department also plans to evacuate Wuhan consulate employees.

Cases have also been confirmed in Australia, Malaysia, France and the U.S. The World Health Organization has declined to declare the virus a global health emergency as of yet, but said the virus is spreading from human-to-human contact.

Most of the deaths have been in older patients, although a 36-year-old man died this week. Officials also said a 2-year-old girl has been infected.

Resources and experts will be located at designated hospitals, and supplies of materials to the Hubei province and Wuhan will be guaranteed, state television reported.

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