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France announces first COVID-19 death: Health Minister

February 15, 2020 | 17:51

An 80-year-old Chinese tourist in France has died from the new coronavirus (COVID-19), said the French Health Minister on Saturday (Feb 15).

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A woman wears a protective mask in light of the coronavirus outbreak in China as she walks at the Trocadero esplanade in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, February 1, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

This is the first novel coronavirus death outside of Asia. So far the only reported fatalities outside of the Chinese mainland has been in the Philippines, Japan and Hong Kong (China).

France has recorded 11 cases of the virus, out of a global total of 63,851.

The death toll from China's new coronavirus epidemic surged past 1,500 on Saturday after 139 more people died in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak.

China is struggling to get the world's second-largest economy going after the Lunar New Year holiday, which was extended by 10 days to help contain the virus.

China would maintain a prudent monetary policy and help companies resume production as soon as possible, the vice governor of the central bank told a news conference.

The official Beijing Daily newspaper said people failing to obey government orders to quarantine themselves on return from the holidays would be punished. But it was not immediately clear how that would be enforced, or whether the restrictions would apply to non-residents or foreigners arriving from abroad.

The World Health Organization has cautioned that it was "way too early" to make any predictions about the disease's trajectory.

An international team of WHO experts will arrive in Beijing this weekend for a joint mission with Chinese counterparts.

The joint team will inspect three provinces and cities to review the prevention and control measures, visit research centres, and make recommendations for containing the epidemic, according to National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng./.