Five British nationals including a child have tested positive for the new coronavirus in France, the health minister said Saturday, adding that they had all stayed at the same ski chalet.
France has now detected a total of 11 cases of the novel coronavirus. The new “cluster” is centred on a Briton who had returned from Singapore and stayed in Contamines-Montjoie, near Mont Blanc in the French Alps, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said.
“They show no serious signs” of a life-threatening infection added Buzyn, herself a doctor.
The Briton at the centre of the new cases is now in Britain and was not counted among the French tally, she told a press conference.
In addition to the five Britons who have tested positive for the virus, six other Britons staying in the same chalet in late January have also been hospitalised for observation, the minister said.
Authorities in France and Singapore are now trying to contact people who came into close contact with the initially infected Briton, she said.
He was on a business trip and had stayed at a hotel for an event with 94 other foreigners, according to senior health official Jerome Salomon who attended the press briefing along with Buzyn.
Other “clusters” have been identified in Malaysia and South Korea around people who attended the same event, he said.
“The new British cases in the French ski resort included a child, showing that this virus is not limited to older, more vulnerable people and one infected person can cause a cluster of cases,” said William Keevil, professor of Environmental Healthcare at the University of Southampton.
“Singapore is a major transport hub in Southeast Asia, so going forward, we may well find further international cases that have travelled through Singapore,” added Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the same university.
“The French ski resort will have citizens from numerous other countries there, so there are implications for potential onward transmission. Most of the six previous cases in France appear to have been treated successfully, though all are still in the hospital,” he said.
One man, an 80-year-old Chinese national, is nonetheless “still in critical condition” in a Paris hospital, Salomon said.
The novel coronavirus which erupted in Wuhan, central China, in December has already infected more than 34,500 people and killed more than 700, according to the latest official figures from China.
Separately the French government ministry issued a warning against any travel to China unless there was an “imperative” reason to go.