France has identified three cases of the deadly new coronavirus from China, the first cases in Europe.
Two of the cases were announced by the health minister, Agnès Buzyn, on Friday evening. She said that both of those affected had travelled to China.
The third case was announced a few hours after the press conference. Two of the three infected people belong to the same family, authorities said.
The minister said she believes that one reason why France is the first European country to have confirmed cases is that it has developed a test allowing medics to rapidly diagnose those affected. “You have to treat an epidemic as you would a fire, that’s to say find the source very quickly,” she said. “We identified the first positive cases very quickly.”
One of the patients, a 48-year-old man, passed through Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak, before travelling to France on Wednesday, the minister said. He is in hospital in the south-western city of Bordeaux. “He’s been put in an insulated room so as to avoid any contact with the outside world. He’s fine,” she said.
She said he is a French national who traveled to China for work and lives in the Bordeaux area. He was in contact with about 10 people before he was taken into care, the minister said. French authorities are seeking to contact them.
The mayor of Bordeaux, Nicolas Florian, told residents not to be concerned about the case. “There is no imminent danger. It’s under control, in hospital … There is no cause for alarm, and no reason to panic,” he told France Bleu radio.
The other person referred to by Buzyn is in hospital in Paris. The minister said they also travelled to China but she had little other information about that case, which was confirmed shortly before she spoke at the news conference.
The minister urged people who suspect they may have the virus to call emergency services and to stay at home to avoid spreading the disease.
The newly discovered virus has killed 41 people and infected more than 1,000. Most of the cases and all of the deaths so far have been in China, where officials have imposed severe restrictions on travel and public gatherings.
Cases have also been reported in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, the US, Thailand and Vietnam.