PARIS (Reuters) - An 80-year-old Chinese tourist has died of the fast-spreading coronavirus in France, becoming the first fatality in Europe, French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said on Saturday.
France has recorded 12 cases of the virus, out of a global total of 67,000. The vast majority of those suffering from the virus are in China. The epidemic has killed more than 1,500 people.
Buzyn said she was informed on Friday that the patient, who had been treated at the Bichat hospital in northern Paris since Jan. 25, died of a lung infection due to the coronavirus.
"This is the first fatality by the coronavirus outside Asia, the first death in Europe," Buzyn told reporters.
"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.
Buzyn said the Chinese man, originally from Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, arrived in France on Jan. 16. His condition quickly deteriorated and he had been in a critical condition for several days.
His daughter, who is also in hospital in Paris, was no longer a source of concern for health authorities and could be released soon, the minister said.
France also reported a 12th case on Saturday, a British national who was part of a group staying at a chalet in the French Alps. Five of them had initially been diagnosed with the virus.
The British patient was being treated at a hospital in Lyon where he had been in isolation for a week. His condition was not a source of concern, the health ministry said.
Out of 12 cases in France, four patients have been successfully treated and have checked out of hospital. The other cases were not a source of concern, Buzyn said earlier.
Outside mainland China, there have been about 500 cases in some 24 countries and territories. Until the death in France, there had been three deaths outside China - one in Japan, one in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Edmund Blair and Nick Macfie)