An elderly Chinese tourist in France has died after contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus, becoming the first fatality outside of the Asia-Pacific region in an epidemic that has killed more than 1,500 people in mainland China.
The 80-year-old man, who was from the central Hubei province where the virus originated late last year, arrived in France on January 16, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told reporters on Saturday.
The man – whose name has not been made public – was hospitalised in Paris, where his condition quickly deteriorated. He was in a critical condition for several days before dying from a lung infection brought on by the virus.
“This is the first fatality by the coronavirus outside Asia, the first death in Europe,” said Buzyn, who was informed of the man’s death late on Friday.
“We have to get our health system ready to face a possible pandemic propagation of the virus, and therefore the spreading of the virus across France.”
She added that the man’s daughter, who is hospitalised at the Bichar hospital in northern Paris, was no longer a source of concern for health authorities and could be released soon.
France has recorded 11 cases of the virus, out of a global total of 67,000, the vast majority of which are in mainland China.
Of the 11 cases in France, four patients were successfully treated and have checked out of hospital.
“Six patients remain hospitalised but are no longer a source of concern today,” Buzyn said.
Those six include the 50-year-old daughter of the deceased tourist and five Britons who became infected at a French ski resort.
The epidemic has killed 1,527 people, all but four of which were on the Chinese mainland.
Until the death in France, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Japan were the only other territories to record deaths, reporting one each.