Two people have died of the novel coronavirus in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, officials said Monday, the country’s first casualties of the outbreak.
In the city of Essen, an 89-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with the virus on March 3 died from pneumonia.
In the district of Heinsberg, which has become a coronavirus hotspot after an infected couple attended carnival festivities there, a 78-year-old man died of heart failure.
Like the elderly woman, the man suffered from pre-existing conditions including diabetes and heart problems.
He was hospitalized on Friday, Heinsberg district administrator Stephan Pusch told reporters, adding that he was “moved and saddened” by the death.
Essen mayor Thomas Kufen meanwhile issued a statement offering his condolences to the woman’s family and friends.
“I regret this death very much,” he said.
North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany’s most populous state along the border with Belgium and the Netherlands.
A total of 323 cases have been reported in Heinsberg alone, 15 of them currently in hospital.
Europe’s top economy has suffered a comparatively light toll in relation to other countries. In Italy for instance, 366 people have died of the virus and there are thousands of confirmed cases.
“Here in Germany we are ahead in diagnostics, in detection,” Christian Drosten, director of the Institute for Virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital said earlier Monday in the capital.
“The most effective tool against coronavirus is the time factor, slowing down its spread and spreading it over a longer period of time,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
She also reiterated government advice on measures such as avoiding bodily contact to reduce the risk of transmitting the disease.