A Chinese tourist has died in France from the coronavirus, French officials announced Saturday.
The 80-year-old man, who died Friday in a Paris hospital, is the first person in Europe to die of complications from the virus that originated in China.
In addition, the first African coronavirus infection has been reported, in Egypt.
Officials in China's capital said all people returning to Beijing must self-quarantine themselves for 14 days. As China looks to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, the state-run Beijing Daily newspaper reported that those who refused to seclude themselves or violated other containment rules "will be held accountable under the law."
China’s National Health Commission said Sunday that 139 more people had died from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll to more than 1,650.
The commission also confirmed another 1,843 new virus cases. However, that represented a drop from higher numbers in recent days. Over the previous two days, China had reported more than 7,500 new infections.
China’s government recently changed its methodology for diagnosing and counting new cases, causing a spike in the number of reported cases. Under the new method, doctors can use lung imaging and other analyses to diagnose a patient instead of relying on laboratory testing.
The National Health Commission said Saturday that most of the new deaths were in Hubei's provincial capital of Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak is believed to have begun.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country rose to more than 68,000 by early Sunday, according the commission.
1,700-plus health workers
On Friday, National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin said 1,716 health workers had also been infected by the coronavirus and six of them had died.
A joint mission with China led by the World Health Organization began an investigation this weekend into the coronavirus. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the annual Munich Security Conference, said Saturday, “An international team of experts is now on the ground working closely with Chinese counterparts to understand the outbreak.”
But Tedros said the WHO was troubled about the response to the continued rise in the number of cases in China, including those involving health workers who had died or been infected.
“We’re concerned about the lack of urgency in funding the response from the international community,” Tedros said. “We must use the window of opportunity we have to intensify our preparedness.”
WHO Health Emergencies Program chief Michael Ryan defended China at the conference, saying it has a “strong public health and health system.” But he said the international community needed to “change our narrative if we are going to work successfully with China and other countries to stop this disease.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stronger public health legislation Friday as the country grapples with the outbreak. Xi “stressed the need to strengthen areas of weakness and close loopholes exposed by the current epidemic,” China Global Television Network reported.
Clean money has become a part of the effort to halt the transmission of the virus. The government asked banks to provide customers with new banknotes whenever possible. China also began to disinfect used paper money.
Fan Yifei, deputy governor of the central bank, said Hubei province received 4 billion new yuan notes before the Lunar New Year holiday, which began January 24.
The U.S. told American passengers quarantined since February 5 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan that they would be evacuated, but they will face another quarantine when they return home.
"To fulfill our government's responsibilities to U.S. citizens under our rules and practices, as well as to reduce the burden on the Japanese health care system, the U.S. government recommends, out of an abundance of caution, that U.S. citizens disembark and return to the United States for further monitoring," the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said in an email to the Americans on board.
The U.S. passengers' Japanese quarantine was set to end February 19. Officials were concerned, however, that the virus was continuing to spread among passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess.
Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Saturday that another 67 passengers from the Diamond Princess had been infected.
Hundreds of passengers aboard the cruise ship MS Westerdam, which had been turned away by several Asian countries, finally disembarked Friday in Cambodia, where Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomed them. The authoritarian leader, a staunch ally of China’s Xi, handed flowers to the passengers as they cheered and walked to buses while waving to others who remained aboard the ship. Hun Sen said all the nearly 1,500 passengers would be allowed to disembark after no cases of the new coronavirus were found aboard.