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France announces first coronavirus death outside Asia

Only three deaths have so far been recorded outside mainland China -- in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan.

FILE: Travelers arrive at LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal wearing medical masks for protection against the novel coronavirus outbreak on 2 February 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Picture: AFP

PARIS – An 80-year-old Chinese tourist has died from the new coronavirus in France, the first death confirmed outside of Asia, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said on Saturday.

Only three deaths have so far been recorded outside mainland China -- in the Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan.

BEIJING ORDERS RETURNEES TO QUARANTINE AS VIRUS DEATH TOLL HITS 1,523

The death toll from China's new coronavirus epidemic jumped past 1,500 on Saturday as Beijing ordered people returning to the capital from holiday to self-quarantine for 14 days in another drastic effort to contain the outbreak.

More than 66,000 people have now been infected in China from a virus that emerged in central Hubei province in December before spreading across the country as millions of people travelled for the Lunar New Year holiday last month.

The holiday was extended by several days to prevent further contagion but people have slowly started to return to work in the past two weeks, though many are doing their jobs from home and schools remain closed.

Beijing's municipal government enacted a rule on Friday requiring all people coming to the capital to quarantine themselves for 14 days, warning that violators would be punished, according to official media. It was unclear how authorities would enforce the measure.

Some 283 million trips were made within the country between January 25 and Friday, said vice transport minister Liu Xiaoming.

The scale of the epidemic ballooned this week after authorities in Hubei changed their criteria for counting cases, retroactively adding thousands of new patients to their tally.

Chinese authorities have placed some 56 million people in Hubei and its capital Wuhan under quarantine, virtually sealing off the province from the rest of the country in an unprecedented effort to contain the virus.

A number of cities far from the epicentre have also imposed tough measures limiting the number of people who can leave their homes.

In another drastic preventive measure, China's central bank said Saturday that used banknotes were being disinfected with ultraviolet light or high temperatures, and stored for up to 14 days before they are put back into circulation.

Several countries have banned arrivals from China and major airlines have cut services with the country.

But the epidemic has continued to spread across China and hundreds of cases have emerged in more than two dozen countries.

The biggest cluster outside China is on a quarantined cruise ship off Japan, where more than 200 people have been infected. The US embassy said it would evacuate Americans stranded on the vessel, who would face a further quarantine of two weeks in the United States.

In Singapore, which has 67 confirmed cases, the Roman Catholic Church said it was suspending all masses indefinitely to help prevent the spread of the virus and urged the faithful to follow services on YouTube or the radio.

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