Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday described the coronavirus epidemic, which has reached more than 2,000 deaths, "the fastest spreading, with the most infected and was the most difficult to prevent and control" since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.
Speaking with top government and military leaders in a teleconference, Xi outlined policies to control the disease that has climbed to 2,445 deaths and 77,042 cases in China -- the vast majority on the mainland. Worldwide, there were 2,462 deaths and 78,811 cases, according the World Health Organization on Sunday.
The first death was reported on Jan. 11 in China.
He noted two strategic goals: controlling the outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, which is the epicenter, and the wider province of Hubei, and preventing the epidemic from spreading to Beijing.
"First, [we must] resolutely curb the spread of epidemic ... increase the rate of treatment and cure, and reduce the infection and death rates effectively in Hubei and Wuhan," he said.
"Second, [we need to] make every effort to prevent and control the spread in Beijing ... strengthen joint defenses and control in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, and cut off the source of infection as much as possible."
In Beijing there are 399 confirmed cases and four deaths compared with 64,084 cases and 2,346 deaths in Hubei province.
Despite "a considerable impact on the Chinese economy and society," Xi said "the fundamentals of China's long-term economic growth have not changed, and the impact of the epidemic is short term and overall controllable."
Xi promised more policies to stimulate economic growth.
"Fiscal policies will be more proactive, [we will] continue to study and introduce targeted cuts in taxes and fees in stages to help small, medium and micro enterprises overcome difficulties. The prudent monetary policy should be more focused on flexibility and moderation, [we should] make good use of existing financial support policies, and introduce new policy measures in a timely manner," Xi said.
He urged various government leaders to push for a return to work and production, depending on the circumstances.
In Wuhan, another doctor, Xia Sisi, 29, died after being infected with coronavirus, according to the official WeChat account of Wuhan Xiehe Jiangbei Hospital, where the doctor worked in the gastroenterology department.
More than 3,000 hospital staff have been infected with the virus, according to Chinese officials.
The Chinese Health Commission on Sunday reported in mainland China 648 additional confirmed case, 882 suspected new cases and 97 deaths, including 96 in Hubei. Also, 2,230 patients were removed from the hospitals after being cured, and 22,128 with close contact with infected patients were released from medical observation.
So far, 628,517 people have been identified as having close contact with infected patients, including 106,089 under medical observation, in mainland China.
There are 20 deaths outside mainland China: five in Iran and South Korea; three in Japan including two on a cruise ship docked there; two in Italy and Hong Kong; and one in Taiwan, France and the Philippines, according to WHO. Iran reported eight deaths.
Italy has reported 132 cases -- the largest outbreak outside Asia. On Friday, there were three confirmed cases in the nation.
The nation is taking action to halt the epidemic: Venice Carnival is has been suspended, public and private meetings are banned through Saturday, sporting events have been canceled, and schools, universities and museum have been closed in the Veneto region, where there have been 25 cases, including two in Venice.
"We ask for the cooperation of all citizens. It's not an easy moment. But, with the data we have today, we can still hope to limit the contagion," Luca Zaia, the regional governor, said.
Italian authorities have not tracked down the first carrier of coronavirus in the country, Angelo Borrelli, the leader of Civil Protection Agency, said.
A European Union official said Sunday that there is a "concern" about the situation in Italy but there is "no need to panic."
EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told reporters during a meeting of G-20 financial leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia "the EU has full confidence in the Italian authorities and the decisions they are taking."
Iran announced that universities and schools in 14 provinces, including in the capital Tehran, will be closed for a week. And soccer matches will be played in empty stadiums, according to Iranian state news agency IRNA.
South Korea extended the winter vacation in schools through high school are another week.
President Moon Jae-in on Sunday raised the national alert to the highest possible level.
"We're now at a watershed moment with the novel coronavirus and the next few days will be very critical," Moon said in a televised address. "We need to identify the infected people as soon as possible and prevent the virus from spreading further."
Japan announced the total number of deaths of people aboard the Diamond Princess rose to three. The latest is a Japanese man in his 80s from pneumonia. In all there are 639 cases on the ship. The ship contained around 3,700 passengers and crew.
People quarantined on board the Diamond Princess cruise liner in Yokohama, near Tokyo, have been arriving home, including the United States where two planes were chartered.
Princess Cruises has announced a search for a "best-in-class" cleaning and disinfection service to get the ship operational again in April.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has upgraded its travel advisory for Japan to level 2 due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The CDC said there are 35 cases in the Unirted States, including 18 repatriated from the Diamond Princess ship and three from Wuhan, but tested by the agency. All of the cases are travel-related except for two from person-to-person contact.
"We're very much involved, we're very cognizant of everything going on. We have it very much under control in this country," Trump told reporters before leaving for India.
In China, he said, "It's a big problem but President Xi loves his country. He's working very hard to solve the problem and he will solve the problem."
Kuwait is banning ships from Iran coming into the country's Shuaiba, Doha and Shuwaikh ports, Kuwait News Agency reported Sunday.
Pakistan has temporarily closed its 559-mile border with Iran.