Doctor at Wuhan hospital is among more than 40 deaths, as coronavirus spreads

BEIJINGXi Jinping established a new, high-level party committee to take control of the Chinese governments response to a deadly new virus that has quickly spread across the country and around the world, as Beijing halted overseas departures of Chinese tour groups and Hong Kong raised its epidemic alert to the highest level.Chinese authorities, meanwhile, sent hundreds of doctors to the epicenter of the crisis, setting plans to build a second special-purpose clinic and repurposing 24 existing hospitals as specialized wards in a bid to contain the fast-spreading epidemic. It has now killed at least 42 people and infected more than 1,300 others.The developments reflect heightened vigilance and fear over a newly identified coronavirus. Little about the virus is understood, including its origin, how easily it transmits from person to person and how long it takes for an infected individual to display symptoms.
After staying largely silent in public about the outbreak since it first emerged in central China last month, Mr. Xi on Saturday convened a special meeting of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, calling for a more centralized response to the epidemic and asserting personal responsibility in addressing the crisis.
When an epidemic breaks out, a command is issued. It is our responsibility to prevent and control it, Mr. Xi said, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
He called for the new high-level committee to address concerns within and outside the country, indirectly referencing mounting global concern about the epidemic, which Mr. Xi described as a grave situation that was accelerating.
We definitely can win the battle to contain the epidemic, he said.
At the center of the epidemic, Liang Wudong, a doctor who had worked for many years at one of the Wuhan hospitals where coronavirus patients are being treated, died on Saturday morning.
The Communist Partys flagship newspaper, the Peoples Daily, said on its English-language Twitter account that Dr. Liang had died of the coronavirus, and portrayed him as a hero for having been at the front line fighting against the coronavirus. It is not clear if Dr. Liangan ear, nose and throat specialist who had retired last yearwas involved in the treatment of other patients.
On Saturday, China announced further restrictions on the movement of its people, banning private vehicles from the streets of central Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak began, and blocking the departure of all overseas group tours beginning Monday for an indefinite period of time.
Travel agencies also were ordered to stop selling air tickets and hotel services for travel within China. And Beijing authorities said all road transportation leaving Beijing for other provinces, such as on buses, would be halted starting Sunday.
Sanya, a city on the southern tourist island of Hainan, said it would close all of its tourist sites starting Saturday, after Beijing shut the Forbidden City and sections of the Great Wall indefinitely.
The restrictions came after days in which Wuhan and more than a dozen surrounding cities put residents on lockdown, halting almost all inbound and outbound travel in an extraordinary attempt to prevent the virus from spreading further.
In Hong Kong, authorities raised the Chinese territorys epidemic alert level to the highest level of emergency and suspended school classes for two extra weeks. The measures were a response to three new coronavirus cases that were confirmed there on Saturday, all Wuhan natives who had arrived in Hong Kong over the past week. All three are in their early 60s with a previous history of good health and hadnt visited the Wuhan livestock market believed to be the source of the coronavirus.
Malaysia, meanwhile, reported its first three cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, as Japan confirmed a third case of its own.
In Taiwan, Premier Su Tseng-chang said Saturday the island would refuse entry to tour groups from Hubei, Wuhans home province, and immediately send back any such tour groups that were already in Taiwan. A day earlier, Taiwan had reported its third coronavirus case.
Within China, the cabinet-level National Health Commission said Saturday it is sending 1,230 medical experts to Wuhan, and the Peoples Liberation Army said it had sent 450 medical personnel from the countrys military medical universities to assist in caring for pneumonia patients at Wuhans hospitals.
The Wuhan Health Commission said it would requisition 24 general hospitals and turn them into designated hospitals for coronavirus patients, adding 6,000 more beds by the end of the month. Two other hospitals are now being built in hopes of adding thousands of beds to Wuhans health system in a matter of days.
The central government said it would send three million face masks, 114,000 protective suits and 110,000 pairs of medical gloves to Wuhan, according to state broadcaster China Central Television.
Dr. Liang, who was 62 years old, had worked at one of Wuhans top hospitals, the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese & Western Medicine, also known as Hubei Xinhua Hospital, according to an official account run by Hubei health authorities. Dr. Liang fell ill last week and was transferred to the Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, also known as Jinyintan Hospital, the account read. Both hospitals have been among the main institutions treating coronavirus patients.
Also on Saturday, a 2-year-old Chinese girl became the youngest patient confirmed to date. She is a native of Wuhan who traveled earlier this past week to the southwestern Chinese region of Guangxi, which borders Vietnam. She began sneezing and developing a fever, and was transferred to a nearby hospital for care, officials said.
—Chun Han Wong, Lekai Liu, Liyan Qi and Joyu Wang contributed to this article.
Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com and Yoko Kubota at yoko.kubota@wsj.com
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