The first person to fall ill in France with the new Sars-like coronavirus, a 65-year-old man who had been travelling in Dubai, has died in hospital from the illness, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
Health Minister Marisol Touraine sent her condoleances to the family of the man, whose death in the northern French city of Lille brings to 23 the number of people killed worldwide by the new virus.
The man was diagnosed with the new virus strain, known as nCoV, on May 8, after being admitted to hospital on April 23, shortly after his return from Dubai, with what seemed at first to be a severe stomach bug and breathing problems.
Second man in hospital
A second man, aged 50, is critically ill with the virus in the same hospital. The two men had shared a ward in April at a different hospital.
While there is little evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission of the novel virus, which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, health experts are concerned about clustering as it has spread from the Gulf to France, Britain and Germany.
The nCoV is from the same viral family that triggered the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) that swept the world in late 2003 and killed 775 people.
French health officials have screened dozens of people who had come into contact with the two carriers in Lille.