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HEALTH

French Alps coronavirus patients among 11 people infected by same man

The British man who infected five people in the French Alps with coronavirus has passed the illness on to at least 11 people - without setting foot in the epicentre of the outbreak in China.

French Alps coronavirus patients among 11 people infected by same man
Photo: AFP

The British man caught the virus as he attended a conference in Singapore and then passed it on to several fellow Brits while on holiday in the French Alps, before finally being diagnosed back in the UK.

Of those infected by the man, five have been hospitalised in France, five in Britain and one other man on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

How did he pass on the new coronavirus so rapidly in so many different places?

The man attended a business conference in Singapore in January where. Of the more than 100 people taking part at least one was a Chinese national from Hubei province, the epicentre of the epidemic that has now left more than 900 dead.

The man then travelled on to France on holiday in a ski resort of Contamines-Montjoie in the Alps, together with a group of British citizens who stayed in the same chalet.

After his return to the south of England, the man was struck by a fever. He went to a medical centre in the southeastern town of Brighton where he was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

On February 6th he was transferred to the infectious diseases unit at the hospital of St Thomas in London.

Five other people who had contact with him at the French ski chalet were then confirmed by the British health authorities to be infected with the virus.

READ ALSO What you need to know about Coronavirus in France

Five British nationals including a child tested positive for the new coronavirus in this village, les Contamines-Montjoie, near Mont Blanc in the French Alps. Photo: AFP

Health Minister Agnès Buzyn said on February 8th that five British nationals, including a child, who stayed at the chalet with the man had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Six other Britons staying in the same chalet were also hospitalised for observation.

“They show no serious signs” of those infected having any threat to their lives, added Buzyn.

French Health Minister Agnès Buzyn. Photo: AFP

Business owners in the Contamines-Montjoie resort wanted to avoid exaggerating the threat as French families prepared to descend on the area for the half-term ski holidays.

Three schools attended by one of the British infected – the child aged nine – were closed and 100 have been people tested. All the results have been negative so far.

Experts said that the speed of the transmission showed the potential for the novel coronavirus to become a global pandemic. 

“The recent report of transmission to British nationals in France are a worrying but perhaps not unexpected development,” said Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, University of East Anglia.

“This reinforces the fact that transmission is no longer restricted to China. It is still too early to know when and if the epidemic will become pandemic and whether we will see start to see sustained person to person transmission in Europe.”

The novel coronavirus has overtaken the number of global fatalities in the 2002-03 SARS epidemic. On Monday the death toll passed 1,000 in mainland China. The Chinese government put the nationwide toll at 1,016 on Monday – up 108 from the day before.

The World Health Organisation said this weekend that the outbreak appeared to be stabilising.

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HEALTH

French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With France in the middle of a new wave of Covid-19, the country's health minister has urged the public to once again wear face masks on public transport and in crowded spaces.

French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With cases on the rise again, French Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon said she is “[asking] the French to put masks back on in transport” in an interview with RTL on Monday, 

For the time being, however, she stressed it was just advice, rather than an obligation, and masks have in fact been recommended on public transport since the legal requirement to wear them was lifted in May. 

However with France reporting over 50,000 daily cases of Covid-19 the government is clearly concerned by the current wave of the pandemic.

Bourguignon said that “we must protect ourselves and protect others,” adding that wearing a mask is “a civic gesture.”

She urged people to don their masks as soon as they see a crowded train or station.

READ MORE: Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

In addition to public transport, Bourguignon is also asking the French to once again mask-up in “all crowded, enclosed areas.”

Currently, masks are only required in hospitals, health centres and places that have vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. They are recommended in crowded spaces where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

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