A man has died in France after contracting coronavirus, making him the first French national to die from the illness.
The French health ministry announced on Wednesday the 60-year-old had been tested while in a serious condition in a hospital in Paris, before dying overnight. An 80-year-old Chinese tourist had already died in the country.
Meanwhile, a man with COVID-19 is in critical condition in Germany, as the virus continues to spread around Europe.
The latest case was announced by German health authorities on Wednesday, after the first cases were confirmed in other European countries including Switzerland, Austria, Croatia and mainland Spain.
Italy is trying to deal with the biggest cluster of infections in any country outside of Asia, with 322 cases including 11 deaths.
Authorities in Austria placed an apartment complex in the southern town of Bad Kleinkirchheim under quarantine on Wednesday after a 56-year-old woman from northern Italy died overnight.
State officials said tests were being conducted to determine whether the woman had the virus. Other residents of the apartment complex were also being tested, they said.
The total number of confirmed cases currently stands at around 81,000, and while the majority of those are in mainland China, clusters continue to grow outside the country, fueling global worries and a warning from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that countries need to act “to prevent a potential pandemic.”
German man in critical condition
The health ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia state in Germany said a man was first hospitalized Monday with serious pneumonia in the town of Erkelenz near the Dutch border.
The man, reported to be in his 40’s, was moved to Duesseldorf’s University Hospital after being diagnosed with the virus, while his wife was isolated after showing symptoms.
Stephan Pusch, who heads the district administration in Heinsberg, where Erkelenz is located, said on Wednesday that schools and kindergartens in the area would be shut for the day.
Meanwhile, Dutch health officials said they were tracing the movements of the German man after learning that he visited the southern province of Limburg last week. The Netherlands doesn’t yet have any confirmed cases of the virus.
WHO: No ‘hidden iceberg’ of cases
Bruce Aylward, head of WHO mission to China and who recently returned from Wuhan, played down reports that a large number of COVID-19 carriers with mild symptoms could be spreading the virus without knowing they were infected.
“There is not huge transmission beyond what you can actually see clinically,” he told reporters in Geneva. “All the data that we have suggests there isn’t this massive iceberg.”
Asked about online theories that the true death toll in China is in the millions, he said: “I didn’t go to every single place, every corner of China, but we have a pretty good sense of what this epidemic looks like and [our] numbers are reflective of that.”