A cleaner carefully wipes down a playground at an empty mall district in Beijing, China  Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. China on…
A cleaner carefully wipes down a playground at an empty mall district in Beijing, China, Feb. 12, 2020.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on leaders of the ruling Communist Party on Wednesday to maintain the fight against the coronavirus while unveiling measures to stimulate the country's economy, which has been weakened by the deadly virus.

The number of new cases has trended lower over the past week, a development Xi cited during a meeting with members of the Politburo's Standing Committee.

"The results are hard-won progress made by all sides," the official Xinhua News Agency reported Xi as saying. He also noted the campaign to prevent and control the virus has reached "a critical stage that requires stringent efforts."

Xi urged party leaders to work toward achieving this year's social development and economic goals, and he ordered tax cuts, rent reductions and other measures to bolster the country's weakened economy.

FILE - A closed notice is seen on an Apple store at the capital city's popular shopping mall following the COVID-19 outbreak, in Beijing, Feb. 10, 2020.

Numbers

Chinese health officials reported Wednesday the number of dead from a coronavirus outbreak has risen to more than 1,100.

The National Health Commission figures included 97 new deaths and a total of 44,653 people confirmed infected since the outbreak began last month. Some experts have cast doubts about whether the total number of cases are being counted.

If the figures are accurate, there would be some semblance of optimism with the 2,015 new cases confirmed Tuesday, a number that was lower than those reported the past few days.

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While most of the coronavirus cases are within mainland China, hundreds have been confirmed sick in dozens of other countries, usually after traveling from China.

The biggest grouping of cases is on board a cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan, where 174 of the 3,700 people on board have tested positive as the ship remains under quarantine orders.

China has put several areas on lockdown in an attempt to stop the virus from spreading.

Workers with sanitizing equipment disinfect an office following an outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, in Shanghai, China, Feb. 12, 2020.

Other developments

On Tuesday, state media reported that the government in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, dismissed its top two health officials.

The World Health Organization officially named the virus COVID-19 at a meeting Tuesday, one day after WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the spread of coronavirus between people who had no history of travel to China could be "the spark that becomes a bigger fire."

"In recent days, we have seen some concerning instances of onward transmission from people with no travel history to China," he said, citing new cases in Britain and France.

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it will permit non-essential employees and their families to voluntarily leave the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong "out of an abundance of caution related to uncertainties" about the coronavirus. The State Department made similar announcements last month for diplomatic staff in Chinese cities, including Beijing. U.S. consular employees were ordered last month to leave Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei province.

The death toll from the coronavirus is higher than the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03, which is believed to have killed 774 people and sickened nearly 8,100 in China and Hong Kong.
 

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