An 80-year-old Chinese man has died from the coronavirus in a French hospital, becoming the first fatality reported outside Asia from the epidemic, French health minister Agnès Buzyn announced on Saturday.
So far the overwhelming majority of the 67,000 people known to have been infected and the resulting 1,527 deaths have been in the Chinese city of Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, but the virus has spread through airline passengers to other Asian cities and other continents.
Ms Buzyn said the man who died in the Bichat hospital in Paris was a Chinese tourist from Hubei who arrived in France on January 16. He had been in isolation since January 25 and died of a lung infection.
“His condition deteriorated rapidly and for several days he had been in a critical state,” she said, adding that he was “the first person to have died from the coronavirus outside Asia, and the first death in Europe”.
Ms Buzyn said the man’s daughter had also been hospitalised with the virus, but her condition was not worrying and she was expected to be released soon.
“We must prepare our health system for a possible pandemic spread of the virus,” the health minister said.
Only 11 cases in all have been reported in France, one of them a doctor, but four have already recovered and the condition of the remaining six are not a cause of concern.
Until Ms Buzyn’s announcement, only three deaths had been reported outside China, one each in Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines.
Coronavirus infections have also been discovered in various east Asian cities, including Singapore and Thailand, as well as in the US and Europe. Egypt announced the first case in Africa on Friday.
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