File image of Ken Shimura. Image courtesy: JAPAN Forward

Popular Japanese comedian Ken Shimura became the first celebrity victim of COVID-19 in that country.

A veteran slapstick comedian and onetime member of rock ’n’ roll band and comedy group The Drifters, Ken Shimura has died of pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus on Monday last.

He was 70 years old at the time of his death.

Shimura last week became the first Japanese entertainment figure to announce their infection with the virus.

Shimura was hospitalized on March 20 after developing a fever and being diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

He tested coronavirus positive on March 23.

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His death also made headlines outside of Japan.

Reuters reported that he ‘was one of the country’s best-known comedians’.

The BBC, CNBC and Turkish state-owned Anadolu news agency also reported the news as did by media in other countries such as Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia.

A native of Higashimurayama in western Tokyo, Shimura, whose real name was Yasunori Shimura, replaced Chu Arai in the Drifters in 1974 after graduating from high school.

Formed by the late actor Chosuke Ikariya and four other men in 1964, the group, which opened for the Beatles in Japan in 1966, became one of the biggest successes in Japanese comedy history.

He later became known for the popular comedy characters he played on TV.

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