Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images

BEIJING (AP) — China has reported 143 new virus deaths and a decline in new cases while the government announced additional anti-disease measures as businesses reopen following sweeping controls that idled much of the economy.

France reported Europe's first virus death, while the U.S. government said it was preparing to fly home Americans quarantined aboard a cruise ship in Japan.

Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization urged governments to step up their efforts to prepare for the virus, saying "it’s impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take.”

China's figure of 2,641 new virus cases was lower the surge reported after the government adopted a new standard for diagnosing cases.

Mainland China's total fatalities rose to 1,523 and confirmed cases to 66,492.

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