SHANGHAI — A U.S. citizen died from the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, American officials said on Saturday. It was the first known American death from the illness, and was likely to add to diplomatic frictions over Beijing’s response to the epidemic.
Relations between Washington and Beijing have been tense for years on a number of issues, including trade, technology and human rights. And while Chinese officials have publicly touted the importance of international cooperation to combat the virus, doubts have arisen in recent days about China’s willingness to accept a helping hand — particularly from the United States.
Few details about the American, who died on Thursday, were immediately available. According to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, the person was 60 years old and died at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, the inland metropolis at the center of the epidemic. Two people familiar with the matter said the person was a woman and had underlying health conditions.
The U.S. government has been evacuating many of its diplomats and other citizens from Wuhan, which Chinese authorities have locked down in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. It could not immediately be learned whether the American who died had tried to leave the city on any of the flights organized by the State Department.
“We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss,” said a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. “Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we have no further comment.”
Word of the death came out as frustrations about Beijing’s handling of the epidemic, which has already provoked outrage and criticism within China, were beginning to emerge at the diplomatic level as well. The virus has killed at least 700 people in China, sickened thousands more and spread across the globe.
For more than a month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been offering to send a team of experts to China to observe the outbreak and help if possible. But no invitation has come.
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