Coronavirus claimed the lives of two passengers from the Diamond Princess Thursday, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported, marking the first confirmed cruse ship deaths.

The Japanese man and woman, both said to be in their 80s, had left the ship last week and were hospitalized. Both passengers reportedly had underlying conditions.

Meanwhile, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is striking an increasingly confident note that the country can control the coronavirus outbreak and manage the economic and social fallout, as some Chinese health experts predict a peak in infections by the end of the month.

Chinese leaders, eager to kick-start economic activity, have dismantled some highway checkpoints, while businesses have begun to reopen. As of Wednesday, however, restrictions on personal mobility remained tight, suggesting wariness about rising infections.

China on Wednesday reported that the rate of new cases continues to decline, but international experts, including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, say they are wary of declaring that the pace of worldwide infections is slowing. Here’s what we know:

● Beijing’s central Xicheng district said it would seal off residential compounds for almost half a million residents in one of the strictest control policies to reach the Chinese capital.

● China tallied a total of 394 new infections and 136 deaths through the end of Wednesday, making the cumulative total 74,546 infections and 2,118 deaths — the overwhelming majority still occurring in central Hubei province.

● Hong Kong reported its second death, a 70-year-old man.

● New stricter criteria for diagnosing coronavirus cases will likely result in further drops in the rate of new infections reported.

● In Japan, an infectious disease specialist slammed conditions on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where 79 new cases were reported Wednesday, saying officials endangered lives by failing to observe proper quarantine practices.

● Iran reported its first two cases of the virus, raising the number infected with the coronavirus in the Middle East to 12, including in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

● The number of coronavirus cases in South Korea increased substantially Thursday, rising by nearly two-thirds to 82.