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Teacher confirmed as first French coronavirus death

[PARIS] A 60-year-old teacher who died in Paris after falling ill with the new coronavirus has become the first French casualty of the illness, health officials said Wednesday, adding he had not travelled to an outbreak hotspot.

The man died overnight in a hospital in the capital, bringing the coronavirus death toll in the country to two, said the ministry's deputy head Jerome Salomon.

The first victim was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist who died in hospital in mid-February.

The teacher, who worked at a junior high school in the town of Crepy-en-Valois, about 80km northeast of Paris, had not travelled to an area affected by the global coronavirus outbreak, said Etienne Champion, director general of the health agency of the Hauts-de-France region.

After feeling unwell he stopped work from February 12 - at the start of the mid-term school holidays. He was tested for the coronavirus in the emergency ward of a Paris hospital on Tuesday, shortly before he died.

Apart from the teacher, France has reported four other new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours - two in people returning from the Lombardy region of Italy, at the centre of Europe's biggest outbreak of the disease.

Eleven people have recovered in France, bringing the total of diagnosed cases in the country to 17.

Among the four still in hospital, a 55-year-old man from the same region as the teacher was in a serious condition in hospital, said Mr Champion.

"Investigations are under way to determine the source of the two infections," he told journalists, and said people who had been in contact with the two - including medical staff - were being monitored.

More than 2,700 people worldwide have died of the virus so far, and almost 80,000 infected, mainly in China.

The French government has asked citizens returning from Lombardy and the neighbouring Veneto region to avoid "all non-essential outings" and keep their children home from school.

The same recommendations have been issued for people returning from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and South Korea.