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Coronavirus: 1st death in Europe, global death toll exceeds 1,500

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — France reported on Saturday the first death due to the new coronavirus outside Asia, fueling concerns about the global epidemic, the toll of which has now exceeded 1,500 dead.

An 80-year-old Chinese tourist hospitalized in France since the end of January died Friday evening, French Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn announced on Saturday. The death is “the first outside Asia, the first in Europe,” she said.

Mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Macao) has so far recorded 1,523 deaths from the coronavirus, according to figures released on Saturday.

Only four deaths have been recorded elsewhere in the world: one in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory of Hong Kong and the other three respectively in Japan, the Philippines and France.

China also reported on Saturday more than 66,000 cases of contamination on its territory, mainly in the province of Hubei (center), the focus of the epidemic of viral pneumonia Covid-19.

While Hubei has been cut off from the world for three weeks and several cities in eastern China have taken drastic containment measures, Beijing in turn tightened restrictions on Friday to stem the spread of the virus.

The capital now obliges all those arriving from outside to impose a 14-day quarantine at their home or hotel, under penalty of sanctions, reported the Beijing Daily, an official daily. Activity in the city remains largely paralyzed and many companies are imposing telework on their employees.

These non-detailed rules of application come at a time when, after extended Lunar New Year holidays, many Chinese who have returned to their region of origin for the holidays must now return home.

Some 283 million trips were made in the country between January 25 and February 14, according to Deputy Minister of Transport Liu Xiaoming.

– First case in Africa –

The Covid-19 epidemic keeps the world on the alert, with nearly 600 confirmed cases of contamination in more than twenty countries.

Egypt announced Friday that it has registered the first case on the African continent.

But the main source of infection outside of China remains the cruise ship Diamond Princess, in quarantine in Japan: 285 cases of contamination have been confirmed there, including 67 new cases announced on Saturday.

Some 3,700 passengers and crew members remain confined to their cabins. A spokesperson for the United States State Department announced that the United States nationals on board would be evacuated and undergo a two-week quarantine on their return to American soil.

In China itself, the fight against the virus constitutes “a great test for the system and the capacities of governance of the country”, recognized on Friday Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Government must tighten “control of online media”, he also insisted in a speech published on Saturday by the state press, after Internet users have expressed multiple criticisms of the authorities regarding management of the crisis.

As a sign of the draconian measures taken in China, the central bank announced on Saturday that used banknotes were now disinfected and placed in quarantine for up to 14 days, before being put back into circulation.

After initially congratulating Beijing on its “very professional work”, the United States on Thursday deplored a “lack of transparency on the part of the Chinese”.

Hubei health authorities announced on Thursday to everyone’s surprise that their definition of people with Covid-19 viral pneumonia would be broadened.

– Avoid “hysteria” –

Until now, a screening test was essential to declare a case “confirmed”. From now on, patients “clinically diagnosed”, in particular with a simple chest X-ray, will also be counted.

The new definition automatically inflated the number of people officially infected, with the announcement of a surge of more than 15,000 new cases of contamination on Thursday.

The number of new cases in China however fell on Saturday to 2,641, the vast majority in Hubei, the number of new cases outside this province (221) continuing to fall.

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