A man has died of the coronavirus in the Philippines, the first confirmed fatality outside China.
The patient was a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan, in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected.
He appeared to have been infected before arriving in the Philippines, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
More than 300 people have died in the outbreak so far, the vast majority from Hubei. More than 14,000 people have been infected.
The US, Australia and an increasing number of other countries have barred the arrival of foreigners from China and are requiring their own citizens to be quarantined.
The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has overtaken that of the similar Sars epidemic, which spread to more than two dozen countries in 2003. But the mortality rate of the new virus is much lower, suggesting it is not as deadly.
The man travelled to the Philippines from Wuhan, via Hong Kong, with a 38-year-old Chinese woman who also tested positive last week, the Philippines Department of Health said.
Officials said he was admitted to a hospital in the capital, Manila, where he developed severe pneumonia.
The man is thought to have had other pre-existing health conditions.
Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO representative to the Philippines, urged people to remain calm: “This is the first reported death outside China. However, we need to take into mind that this is not a locally acquired case. This patient came from the epicentre of this outbreak.”
According to local news outlet Rappler, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the patient was “stable and showed signs of improvement”, but his condition deteriorated rapidly over 24 hours.
“We are currently working with the Chinese embassy to ensure the dignified management of the remains according to national and international standards to contain the disease,” Mr Duque said, adding that the man would be cremated.
The Department of Health was now trying to track down people who were on the same flight as the man so that they could be quarantined, he said, as well as any other people the man and woman may have come into contact with, such as hotel staff.
The man’s death was confirmed shortly after the Philippines announced it would immediately halt the arrivals of any foreign travellers from China.
It had previously restricted only those from Hubei, which is at the epicentre of the outbreak. (Courtesy BBC)