Germany reports first two coronavirus deaths

Two people have died of the novel coronavirus in the western German city of Essen and virus hotspot Heinsberg, officials told AFP on Monday, the country's first casualties of the outbreak.

In Essen, an 89-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with the virus on March 3 died despite medical measures to support her breathing and circulation.

"I regret this death very much," mayor Thomas Kufen said in a statement, offering his condolences to the woman's family and friends.

Meanwhile officials in the district of Heinsberg said they would discuss the fatal case there at a 6:30 pm (1730 GMT) press conference.

Both fatalities occurred in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state along the border with Belgium and the Netherlands.

The number of people testing positive for the on Monday passed 1,000 in Europe's top economy Germany.

But so far the only German national to die of the disease had been a 60-year-old tourist in Egypt.

Germany has suffered a comparatively light toll in relation to European Union neighbours, namely in hard-hit Italy, where 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.

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