Three cases of coronavirus in France were confirmed on Friday – two in Paris and one in Bordeaux – marking the first cases reported in Europe.
French health minister Agnès Buzyn said on Sunday: “I expect that there will be new cases, as elsewhere.
“There are five people who under under observation in isolation. About ten other cases are under surveillance.”
Health minister Agnes Buzyn. Photo: AFP
However she stressed that so far all confirmed cases are in people who have travelled from China.
“We have no (contracted) cases in France.”
She also added that “France is the first to have developed a test, that's probably why we have detected cases”.
Passengers arriving in French airports from China will not be screened with temperature tests, as the minister said this serves no purpose.
She said: “Taking the temperature is a symbol, it reassures the wider population, but it is a false security which is useless.
“The World Health Organisation does not recommend this technique. The most appropriate way is to give information to passengers, which we do, on paper, in three languages.”
Flights from China have not been suspended, but the French government has announced it will repatriate its citizens who are working in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the epidemic began.
The French government held an emergency meeting on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Since the illness first broke out at a fish market in Wuhan in December, several thousand have been infected and 80 people have died.
Chinese health authorities say that the majority of the people who died were elderly or people with other underlying medical conditions, although one of the dead was a doctor who was treating the victims.
The three patients in France are all in isolation in hospital and understood to be in a stable condition.
The symptoms of the virus include cough, headache, fatigue, fever, aching and difficulty breathing.
It is primarily spread through airborne contact or contact with contaminated objects.
Its incubation period is two to 14 days, with an average of seven days.
— Le Parisien (@le_Parisien) January 24, 2020
Anyone who thinks they may be infected is told not to go to hospital or their doctor's surgery, as this risks spreading the illness.
Instead call the ambulance service – on the number 15 – and tell the operator it is a suspected case of coronavirus.
As the news of the virus in France spread, dozens of people on the streets of Paris wearing surgical masks and many pharmacies reported selling out completely.
However the health minister – who is a doctor herself – advised that the masks are not necessary and do not actually offer any protection against the virus.
The French health ministry is advising people to practice good hand hygiene – washing your hands and using sanitiser gel regularly (particularly if you have been toughing surfaces that many other people will have touched such as on the Metro), using disposable tissues and throwing them away and covering your mouth with your elbow when you cough.
Scary as the virus sounds, it should be pointed out that seasonal flu caused 9,500 deaths in France last year.