Two cases of coronavirus confirmed in France, first in Europe, says minister

China imposes massive virus quarantine as US finds second case

French President Emmanuel Macron
France has announced two cases of a deadly new virus from China, the first in Europe. The two confirmed cases were announced on Friday by Agnes Buzyn, health minister, who said both people had travelled to China.

The minister said she expects more cases. "We have two cases," she said. "We will probably have other cases."

One reason why France is the first European country to have confirmed cases is that it has developed a test allowing medics to rapidly diagnose infected people, she said. One of the pair, a 48-year-old man, passed through Wuhan, the epicentre in China for the virus, before travelling to France on Wednesday, Buzyn said.

That person is hospitalised in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

The other person is in a Paris hospital.

The minister said that that person also travelled to China but that she has little other information about the case. It was confirmed shortly before she spoke at a news conference.

Earlier, the United States reported its second case, involving a Chicago woman in her 60s who was hospitalised after returning from China.

Transportation was shut down in Wuhan, a city of 11 million, and in at least 12 other cities in central China's Hubei Province, encompassing a population bigger than that of New York, London, Paris and Moscow combined.

According to the WHO, signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

In more severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Reports say the incubation period of the coronavirus remains unknown, but other sources say it could be between 10 to 14 days.

Chinese authorities expanded a massive quarantine effort covering 13 cities on Friday to contain a deadly virus as nervous residents were checked for fevers and the death toll climbed to 26.

While China imposed transport bans in an area covering a staggering 41 million people. The virus has also spread to densely populated South Asia, where Nepal confirmed one case.

With more than 800 cases logged in China so far, a range of Lunar New Year festivities have been cancelled, with temporary closures of Beijing's Forbidden City, Shanghai's Disneyland and a section of the Great Wall to prevent the disease from spreading further.

The previously unknown virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

The World Health Organization said China faced a national emergency but stopped short of declaring a global health emergency, which would have prompted greater global cooperation.

The outbreak emerged in late December in Wuhan, an industrial and transport hub of 11 million people in China's centre, spreading to several other countries including the United States.

A woman in Chicago in her sixties became the second patient on US soil, with 50 other suspected cases under investigation. The woman was doing well and was in stable condition, a city health official said Friday.

The first case in South Asia was reported in Nepal on Friday. The 32-year-old male patient, who had arrived from Wuhan, was treated at a hospital in Kathmandu and discharged, officials said.

China is in the midst of its Lunar New Year holiday, a typically joyous time of family gatherings and public festivities.

But on Friday Wuhan was a ghost town, its streets deserted and stores shuttered.

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