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Xi Jinping vists a community health center in Beijing on Feb. 10. Photo: Ju Peng/Xinhua via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping said that he first gave orders to tackle the coronavirus crisis on Jan. 7 in a speech released by state media on Saturday, the New York Times reports. He did not disclose details of those orders in the speech.

Why it matters: The newly published address, which Xi gave on Feb. 3, confirms "for the first time that he was aware of the virus while officials at its epicenter were openly downplaying its dangers," per the Times.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: The decision to release this information indicates that one of Xi's priorities now is assuring the Chinese public that China's top leaders — not local officials — have long been firmly at the helm of the government's response.

  • Popular anger at local officials for early attempts to suppress knowledge of the coronavirus has surged nationally, and led to widespread distrust of government action to combat the epidemic.
  • By taking personal responsibility for the coronavirus response, even from its early days, Xi is risking further backlash if the epidemic worsens.

Catch up quick: The Chinese government "delayed a concerted public health offensive" for the coronavirus by silencing doctors for raising red flags in the first seven weeks after symptoms appeared in December, the Times previously reported.

  • Officials in Wuhan — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — were "giving open assurances that there was no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission" in early January, per the Times.
  • Li Wenliang, the doctor who sounded the alarm on the coronavirus outbreak, was mourned last week in vigils in Hong Kong and Wuhan that seemed to "shake loose pent-up anger and frustration" at the government's handling of the crisis, per the Times' Li Yuan.

Go deeper: The coronavirus threat to China's grand plans

Go deeper

McCarthy jokes about hitting Pelosi with gavel if he becomes Speaker, in new audio

Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can be heard saying "it would be hard not to hit" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with the speaker's gavel if Republicans retake the House in 2022 and he becomes speaker, according to new audio posted to Twitter by a Main Street Nashville reporter.

Driving the news: McCarthy made the comments during a fundraising event in Tennessee, as he was handed an oversized gavel by members of the Tennessee congressional delegation, reports CNN.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

U.S. and U.K. blame Iran for drone strike on oil tanker

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that the United States and United Kingdom, respectively, now believe Iran was likely responsible for last week's drone strike on an oil tanker in the Arabian sea.

Why it matters: The United States and Britain now join Israel in accusing Tehran of being behind the July 29 attack off the coast of Oman. Iran has denied involvement.

10 hours ago - Sports

Suni Lee wins bronze medal in uneven bars

Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

U.S. gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee won her 3rd Olympic medal on Sunday, taking home bronze in the individual uneven bars event.

Driving the news: Also on Sunday, U.S. gymnast MyKayla Skinner won the silver medal in the vault on Sunday after stepping in for Simone Biles, who withdrew from the event to prioritize her mental health and well-being.