MANILA: The Philippines has reported the first death outside China from the coronavirus that has killed more than 300 and spread to other countries, the World Health Organization said on Sunday (Feb 2).
The fatality is a Chinese man from the city of Wuhan, where the virus was first detected.
"This is the first reported death outside China," Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO representative to the Philippines, told reporters.
"However, we need to take into mind that this is not a locally acquired case. This patient came from the epicentre of this outbreak," Abeyasinghe added.
The 44-year-old man arrived in the Philippines with a Chinese woman who had also tested positive for the virus, health secretary Francisco Duque said.
The man developed severe pneumonia after being admitted to a government hospital in Manila on Jan 25, the Department of Health said.
While the patient who died was "stable and showed signs of improvement" during his last few days in the hospital, his condition deteriorated in the 24 hours before he died, Duque told reporters.
She was the Philippines' first case of the virus and is recovering in hospital.
Twenty-four patients previously under investigation for infection tested negative for the new coronavirus, while samples from four other patients were still being tested, the health department said.
Passengers aboard the flights of the two positive cases were being traced, he said.
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The two patients had taken Cebu Pacific flights from Hong Kong to Cebu and from Cebu to Dumaguete in central Philippines, the airline said in a statement.
The cabin crew and pilots on affected flights have been quarantined, and the aircraft have undergone thorough disinfection, it said.
Cebu Air and two other Philippine carriers, Philippine Airlines and the local unit of AirAsia Group Bhd, have cancelled flights to China this month, joining many others around the world that have done the same.
The WHO last week declared the situation a global health emergency.
The first foreign fatality came as an escalating number of governments around the world closed their borders to people from China in a bid to stop it spreading.
The Philippines announced it would immediately halt the arrivals of any foreign travellers from China. The United States, Australia and Israel have banned foreign nationals from visiting if they had been in China over the previous 14 days, and warned their own citizens from travelling there.
Mongolia, Russia and Nepal closed their land borders, while Papua New Guinea went as far as to ban anyone arriving from ports or airports across Asia.
The death toll in China soared to 304 on Sunday, with authorities reporting 45 new deaths from the previous day.
There were 2,590 new confirmed cases in China, bringing the total to nearly 14,500.