March 11, 2020 / 4:09 PM / 19 days ago

UPDATE 2-Sweden reports first coronavirus death, bans large gatherings

(Adds government decision on meeting ban, quote from prime minister)

STOCKHOLM, March 11 (Reuters) - Sweden reported its first death from the new coronavirus on Wednesday and banned public gatherings of more than 500 people to try to stop the spread of the disease.

Sweden has around 460 confirmed cases of the virus, the first of which was identified at the end of January.

“The patient has had COVID-19 as well as an underlying sickness,” the regional health authority said in a statement.

The elderly patient died in intensive care at a hospital in the Stockholm region. The authority said another patient was also being treated in intensive care in the same region.

With the rapid increase in the number of cases in recent days, the government decided to follow a request from the Public Health Agency on Wednesday to ban gatherings of more than 500 people to try to stem the spread.

“The government is also going forward ready to take the decisions required to stop the spread of the disease,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told a news conference after a meeting of the government.

The Public Health Agency on Tuesday raised the risk level for local contagion to “very high” from “moderate” and said it was seeing signs of community spread in the Nordic country. (Reporting by Stockholm Newsroom; Editing by Niklas Pollard and Alison Williams)

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