Hong Kong on Tuesday become the second place outside of the Chinese mainland to report the death of a patient being treated for a new coronavirus that has so far claimed more than 400 lives.
Medical authorities confirmed a 39-year-old man who was being treated for the virus died on Tuesday morning.
The man was a resident of Hong Kong who had travelled last month to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak, returning home on January 23 via a high-speed rail link.
Since emerging from Wuhan late last year, the coronavirus has infected 20,000 people across China and spread to more than 20 countries.
But so far only the Philippines and Hong Kong have reported a fatality outside of the Chinese mainland.
Most of the deaths in China have been in Wuhan and the rest of surrounding Hubei province, much of which has been under lockdown for almost two weeks.
Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said further details about the death would be released later Tuesday.
Multiple local media outlets, citing medical sources, said the man had underlying health issues that had complicated his treatment.
His death came a day after Hong Kong’s leader announced the closure of all but two land border crossings to the Chinese mainland in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.
Currently, 15 people have tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong, many of them are people who arrived in the semi-autonomous city from the mainland.
There has been growing public anger over the Hong Kong government’s response to the outbreak, with calls to seal the border entirely. There is also an acute shortage of masks and a strike by some medical workers that entered its second day on Tuesday.
While Hong Kong maintains close economic and cultural links to the Chinese mainland, a seething distrust of the authorities in Beijing permeates the city.
The 2003 outbreak of the SARS virus, which Beijing initially covered up, killed almost 300 people in Hong Kong and left lasting psychological scars on the densely populated city.
Distrust — and at times open hostility — towards mainlanders has been worsened by years of political unrest as Hong Kongers chafe under Beijing’s rule, and protest for greater democratic freedoms.