Chinese president says he took early action against COVID-19

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China's president said he took early action behind the scenes

American from cruise ship docked in Cambodia tests positive in Malaysia

First coronavirus death outside of Asia reported in France

• U.S. to evacuate Americans from quarantined cruise ship

• San Diego County declares health emergency

• Egypt confirms coronavirus case, 1st in Africa

Chinese president says he took behind-the-scenes action in the early days of outbreak

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a speech published Saturday night by state media that he took behind-the-scenes action in the early days of the COVID-19 epidemic.

In the speech, delivered Feb. 3 but detailed for the first time Saturday, Xi said he gave instructions to officials on fighting the outbreak as early as Jan. 7. The disclosure came after Chinese leadership was criticized for slow and muted reaction to the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

It wasn't until late January that officials notified the public about its potential to spread.

Outrage over the death of a young doctor and virus carrier, Li Wenliang, who was reprimanded by local police for trying to warn people about the disease, preceded a shakeup of Communist Party leadership in Hubei province, where the outbreak is centered.

The news of Xi's speech came as the country's National Health Commission reported that the number of new cases, 2,009, is declining compared to the peak of more than 15,000 on Thursday. The number has dropped for three days in a row.

A total of 68,500 confirmed cases and 1,665 deaths were reported Saturday. The commission reported 9,419 people have recovered after contracting the virus. - Associated Press and Dennis Romero

American from cruise ship docked in Cambodia tests positive in Malaysia

An 83-year-old American woman who had been a passenger on a cruise ship that docked in Cambodia has tested positive for the new coronavirus after she arrived in Malaysia, health authorities said on Saturday.

The American woman flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia along with 144 others from the ship, the Malaysian health ministry said in a statement. The woman's husband had tested negative, it said.

The MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp. unit Holland America Inc., docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville on Thursday after being shunned by five countries on fears that passengers could be carrying the virus.

The Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, spent two weeks at sea.

The passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 once the ship docked. None were found to have the new coronavirus. — Reuters

First death outside Asia reported in France

An 80-year-old Chinese man has died from a coronavirus related disease in France — the first person to do so outside of Asia.

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said the 80-year-old came from China's Hubei Province, where the disease, officially known as COVID-19, is believed to have originated.

Buzyn said he had arrived in France on Jan 16. and was placed isolation nine days later at the Hospital Bichat in Paris, where he was closely monitored.

His daughter is also infected although her condition is not thought to be serious, she said, adding that she was being treated at the same hospital. — Nancy Ing

Beijing orders 14-day quarantine for returnees

Authorities in Beijing have ordered residents returning home from traveling, to place themselves in a self-imposed quarantine for 14 days, in a bid to contain the virus.

The directive for self-isolation from the Beijing Office of Prevention and Control issued on Friday, came as the death toll in mainland China from the outbreak passed 1,500.

It said that those who refuse to accept the new measures of prevention, “shall be held accountable according to law.”— Eric Baculinao

U.S. to evacuate Americans from quarantined cruise ship

American passengers quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan where scores of people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus are to be evacuated on Sunday, according to an email sent to them by the U.S. embassy in Tokyo.

"The aircraft will arrive in Japan the evening of Feb. 16," the email said. "Buses will move you and your belongings from the ship to the aircraft."

It said they would "be screened for symptoms and we are working with our Japanese partners to ensure that any symptomatic passengers receive the required care in Japan if they cannot board the flight."

As of Friday 218 of the 771 passengers and crew that have been tested are positive for the virus, also known as COVID-19, authorities said. At least 32 were Americans.

— Dennis Romero

San Diego County declares health emergency

San Diego County declared a public health emergency Friday as American evacuees from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, have been quarantined at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in the city of San Diego.

The base received two flights of Wuhan evacuees last week. Two of the travelers have tested positive for the virus and were described as "doing well" and "fair," respectively, by UC San Diego Health CEO Patty Maysent. Five other Wuhan evacuees were described as persons under investigation. All seven were at UC San Diego Health facilities, university officials said at a news conference Friday.

Additionally, two people intercepted at the U.S.-Mexico border were "possible subjects of investigation" as a result of their travel histories, said Dr. Eric McDonald of the Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. They were in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he said.

County officials emphasized that the emergency, which followed a similar declaration by Santa Clara County in the Bay Area, did not signal increased odds of contracting the virus. They said it allowed local government to more easily tap needed resources. — Dennis Romero

Egypt confirms coronavirus case,1st in Africa

The first coronavirus case on the African continent was confirmed by Egypt's Health Ministry, Friday. The affected person is a foreigner who had been put into isolation at a hospital, it said in a statement.

It added that it had immediately informed the World Health Organization and had taken all necessary preventative measures.

Everyone who had come into contact with the person will be quarantined in their homes for 14 days, Dr. Khaled Mujahid, from Egypt's Ministry of Health, said in the statement. The building where the person was staying had been “sterilized,” he said.

The health ministry did not give the nationality of the affected person or any other details. — Charlene Gubash and Reuters

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