Since France began to ease its strict nationwide lockdown on May 11th, health authorities have focused their efforts on a 'test and trace' strategy to identify early new outbreaks of the illness.
The latest data from Santé Publique France shows that up to June 3rd 150 Covid-19 clusters have been identified – 142 in mainland France and eight in its overseas territories.
A cluster is defined by the health body as at least three confirmed or probable cases within a period of seven days occurring in the same community or in people who had participated in the same event or gathering.
Of the 150 clusters, 66 percent have five or more cases.
Health bodies have previously said that reports of clusters are proof that the test and trace strategy is working and outbreaks are being identified early and prevented from spreading further.
On Friday the president of the government's advisory Scientific Council said the test and trace programme should be enough to avoid another nationwide lockdown.
Jean-François Delfraissy, immunology specialist and president of the advisory Scientific Council. Photo: AFP
Jean-François Delfraissy told French newspaper Le Parisien: “Since the release of the lockdown, we have sufficient means to identify the outbreaks of infection.
“At the beginning of March, we were doing about 4,000 tests a day, whereas the Germans were already at about 70,000. Now we have caught up and are at the same level as them, at last!”
As the Scientific Council released its seventh report, he said that the country would not return to a second nationwide lockdown, even if there is a second wave in the autumn, although there could be localised restrictions in the event of large clusters or outbreaks.
He added: “I am firmly convinced that if it starts up again, it will start up again in the Paris region.”
Of the 150 clusters identified so far the largest group – 27 percent – have been in health establishments such as hospitals and health centres.
People in social accommodation accounted for 17 percent of clusters and workplaces also accounted for 17 percent.
The other groups where clusters were identified were institutions for the disabled (8 percent), vulnerable communities such as travellers and migrants (6 percent), family homes and extended families (6 percent), schools, universities and prisons (3 percent) and social gatherings and crèches (1 percent). There have been no clusters linked to public transport so far.
As well as the test and trace programme, France has launched a coronavirus tracing app that is intended to supplement the programme by tracking casual contacts such as fellow travellers on public transport or customers in a café. Use of the app is voluntary and so far around 1 million people have downloaded it.