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Portugal confirms first coronavirus death, says more to come

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal on Monday reported its first coronavirus death and said more were expected, as it stepped up efforts to curb the infection by suspending passenger air and rail traffic with neighboring Spain.

Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has called a meeting of the state council for Wednesday to decide whether the country should declare a state of emergency.

Health Minister Marta Temido said the fatality was an 80-year-old man with pre-existing conditions who was hospitalized in the country’s capital Lisbon.

“It’s a heavy moment, it’s a moment of reflection, where more than ever we need to concentrate on what must be done,” Temido told a press conference.

“We know the mortality rate of this illness is over 2% for everyone, and so in the coming days and weeks we will have more deaths,” Temido said. “It is part of the natural story of this disease.”

The usually crowded Lisbon city center was emptier than usual on Monday, as tourists hastily made arrangements to go home earlier than planned.

“Today everything has stopped,” said British tourist Trisha Johnson. “Everything has been closing down and I suppose you get to a point when you want to go home.”

Portugal’s Interior Minister Eduardo Cabrita said that all passenger air and rail traffic with Spain will be suspended until April 15 from 2300 GMT.

The travel restrictions will prevent tourism but will not affect the free movement of goods and will protect workers’ rights.

Portugal has so far reported 331 cases of the coronavirus, far below Spain’s 8,744, where dozens of people have died so far.

To contain the coronavirus, the Portuguese government on Friday declared a “state of alert” until April 9.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said the government would not object if the president decides that a state of emergency is the best way forward to fight the coronavirus.

Classes across the education system have been suspended, cruise ships are no longer allowed to disembark foreign passengers, night clubs have shut and there are capacity restrictions on entry to shopping malls, restaurants and terraces.

Reporting by Lisbon Newsroom, Editing by