The coronavirus claimed 86 lives during a one-day period ending Saturday morning, the biggest single-day increase to date, as the virus continues to takes its toll in China and other parts of the world.
Among the new fatalities are a U.S. citizen in Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the outbreak — officials at the American Embassy in Beijing said Saturday.
The embassy said that the 60-year-old American died February 6. A Japanese citizen is also reported to have died in Wuhan of viral pneumonia, likely caused by the corona virus, 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, saying, "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.”
Earlier Friday, 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 continued to applaud Xi on Twitter Friday, 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.
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 anger online 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 to "fully investigate relevant issues raised by the public.”
Officials in China said the death toll on the mainland by the end of Friday was 723 while new cases jumped to 34,546. The death toll has now surpassed the number of deaths from the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak in China and Hong Kong. The WHO said Saturday the coronavirus is on pace to surpass the 774 SARS deaths that were recorded worldwide.
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 quoted Xi as saying.
World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Saturday it would send an international team of investigators to China on Monday or Tuesday. Tedros did not name the team members, saying the organization will “publicize everything as soon as we’re ready.”
The WHO said Friday it is too early to confirm one Chinese official's belief the outbreak is about to peak.
But WHO public health specialist Mike Ryan said Saturday the number of new cases in the Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, had stabilized over the last four days, “which may reflect the impact of control measures put in place.”
There are more than 320 confirmed cases in at least 25 other countries, including one death in the Philippines — the first outside of China -- and one death in Hong Kong.
Three more new cases were confirmed by Japan aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, moored off Japan, raising the total to 64. 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's 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. Taiwan is also halting most flights between Taiwan and china, beginning Monday. All direct passenger and freight shipping between the island and China are also being suspended.
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 landed at a military base in Northern California later Friday. The returning Americans, about 530 in all, are being quarantined for 14 days and watched for signs of the illness.
The WHO has declared the coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency and is appealing for $675 million to fight the virus.
WHO Director Tedros 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.