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Excavators rush construction of a 1,000-bed field hospital in Wuhan, China. Photo: Getty Images

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has said little publicly about the growing coronavirus crisis, now has ordered mobilization across the country and drastic measures to hold back the contagion, the New York Times reports.

What he's saying: "Confronted with the grave situation of this accelerating spread of pneumonia from infections with the novel coronavirus, we must step up the centralized and united leadership under the party central” leadership.

The latest: Hong Kong, where five cases of the illness have been confirmed, said it would close schools for two weeks, per AP.

  • Today is Lunar New Year, a traditional time of travel. But China is locking down at least three cities with a combined population of over 18 million.
  • 41 people have died globally from the coronavirus strain that originated in Wuhan, China, AP reports — and the respiratory illness has made its way to Europe, with France confirming three cases.

Wuhan banned private cars downtown.

  • A stat that gives you a sense of the scale of these cities: Wuhan, population: 11 million, will assign 6,000 taxis to specific neighborhoods.

The big picture: The deadly coronavirus has not yet sufficiently spread internationally to designate the outbreak as a global health emergency, the World Health Organization announced on Jan. 23.

Go deeper: Death toll climbs in coronavirus outbreak

Go deeper

Scoop: Biden weighs retired general Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star general Lloyd Austin as his nominee for Defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
1 hour ago - Health

WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release"

A medical syringe and vial with fake coronavirus vaccine in front of the World Health Organization (WHO) logo. Photo Illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Top scientists at the World Health Organization on Friday called for more detailed information on a coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

Why it matters: Oxford and AstraZeneca have said the vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses. AstraZeneca has since acknowledged that the smaller dose received by some participants was the result of an error by a contractor, per the New York Times.