Coronavirus: Bus passengers from Italy blocked on arrival in France and Paris police station shut

Passengers who arrived by bus in Lyon in southeast France on Monday from Italy were kept onboard after the driver was hospitalised with symptoms similar to those caused by the new coronavirus, security sources said.

Coronavirus: Bus passengers from Italy blocked on arrival in France and Paris police station shut
The security cordon at Lyon bus station. Photo: AFP

Police erected a security cordon around the bus at Lyon's Perrache station and ordered the passengers to remain onboard, a spokeswoman for the Lyon area's public security department said.

READ ALSO Coronavirus: France steps up epidemic preparations after deaths in neighbouring Italy

The Flixbus bus had come from Milan to Lyon via Turin and Grenoble. Photo: AFP

No information was given as to how many people were on the bus.

The LyonMag news site reported that a driver, who is Italian, was taken to hospital for tests because he had a bad cough.

“A bus is undergoing an inspection. Our teams are at the scene and an assessment is underway,” a spokeswoman for the regional health agency told AFP.

A couple that boarded the bus in Lyon told AFP they were kept inside for over two hours before being allowed disembark after they were checked by doctors.

They said they were told they would be contacted again if the driver, who was taken to hospital for tests, turned out to be carrying the virus.

By around 1pm, all passengers – who were issued with face masks – had been allowed off the bus, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region at the centre of Europe's biggest outbreak of the coronavirus that has killed nearly 2,600 people worldwide.

Low-cost operator FlixBus said the bus had stopped off in the Italian city of Turin and the French city of Grenoble on the way to Lyon.

Five people have died from the disease in Italy, where several northern villages are under lockdown.

In a sign of the nervousness triggered by the global spread of the virus, a Paris police station was closed to the public for several hours Monday after a Chinese woman became unwell on the premises.

The station in the 13th district, home to the French capital's Asian quarter, reopened after the woman tested negative for the COVID-19 virus, a police source told AFP.

The bus had come from Milan, capital of the Lombardy region which is at the centre of Europe's biggest outbreak of the coronavirus that has killed nearly 2,600 people worldwide.

Five people have died from the disease in Italy, where villages in Lombardy have been put under lockdown.

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French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.