US confirms first coronavirus death

BBC – The US has reported its first death from the coronavirus, in the north-west state of Washington.

President Donald Trump said the patient was a “medically high-risk” woman in her late 50s.

He said more cases were “likely” but that the US was prepared for any circumstance.

Officials said they were expanding travel restrictions on Iran and urged Americans to avoid hard-hit parts of Italy and South Korea.

More than 85,000 coronavirus cases have been reported around the world and almost 3,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The vast majority of infections and deaths are in China, where the virus emerged late last year.

What is happening in the US?

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Mr Trump confirmed earlier reports that a person in Washington state had died from the coronavirus.

Health officials have not identified the woman, but said the fatality occurred in the state’s King County. They said the woman had not travelled to any high-risk areas.

The woman who died is one of two patients who were confirmed to have the disease at a hospital in the Seattle area, the BBC’s Los Angeles correspondent Peter Bowes says.

Among the other 22 cases in the country, Mr Trump said four people were “very ill” with the virus.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency in response to new cases in the state.

It comes after officials on the US West Coast reported three unexplained coronavirus cases – in California, Oregon and Washington – raising concerns the virus could be spreading within the community.

A US citizen previously died in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first appeared.

What else did Trump say?

While acknowledging that more cases were expected, he also sought to quell fears over the outbreak.

“Since the early stages of the foreign outbreak my administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to confront the spread of this disease,” he said.

“Our country is prepared for any circumstance. There is no reason to panic at all.”

He said healthy individuals “should be able to fully recover”.

Vice President Mike Pence announced that an existing ban on travel from Iran had been expanded to include any foreign national who has visited the country within the last 14 days.

Iran has reported the most coronavirus deaths outside China.

Americans were also urged not to visit hard-hit areas in global hot-spots Italy and South Korea.

Mr Pence said the US was working with local officials to coordinate screening of travellers entering the US from those countries.

What about France?

France earlier announced that it had banned all indoor gatherings of more than 5,000 people, as part of efforts to contain the country’s coronavirus outbreak.

Measures announced after an emergency cabinet meeting also include the cancellation of the Paris half-marathon which was to be held on Sunday.

In the worst-hit area, north of Paris, all public gatherings have been banned.

The total number of cases of the new coronavirus in France rose to 100 on

“Our goal at this stage is limit the spread,” Health Minister Olivier Véran said after Saturday’s cabinet meeting.

Among the events affected by the prohibition of large indoor gatherings is Paris’s annual agricultural fair. Its final day, which was scheduled for Sunday, has been cancelled.

The government has urged residents of the worst-hit areas to avoid “non-essential travel” and “work from home if possible “.

What other developments have there been?

  • South Korea, which has the highest number of cases outside China, mobilised the army on Saturday. Soldiers have been disinfecting large parts of Daegu, the south-eastern city that has been at the centre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
  • In Italy, Europe’s worst-affected country with 650 cases and 17 deaths, five Serie A football games have been postponed. The games were going to be played behind closed doors, but the league decided to call them off on Saturday.
  • Iran on Saturday said the total number of infections there had reached 593 and 43 patients had died
  • Qatar reported its first case, after a 36-year-old Qatari woman who was evacuated to the country from Iran tested positive for the virus, according to state media
  • Ecuador also confirmed its first case of the virus
  • Three more patients from England tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of UK cases to 23.
  • Officials in the US states of California, Oregon and Washington State reported three cases where patients had no known connection to a badly hit country. The announcements raising concerns the virus could be spreading within the community.
  • Factory activity in China fell to a record low in February as manufacturers closed their operations to contain the spread of the disease. Nasa said an economic slowdown following the outbreak was “at least partly” linked to significant decreases in nitrogen oxide over the country

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