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Covid-19 clusters

France flags scores of active Covid-19 clusters but 'no signs of second wave'

People, wearing protective face mask, line-up outside a testing site for Covid-19 installed inside a gymnasium in Laval, in Mayenne department, now on high vulnerability alert.
People, wearing protective face mask, line-up outside a testing site for Covid-19 installed inside a gymnasium in Laval, in Mayenne department, now on high vulnerability alert. © REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

France’s health minister has expressed concerns over increased circulation of the coronavirus across the country after officials said there are currently 97 active coronavirus outbreak clusters under investigation.

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Health Minister Olivier Véran, on Monday moved to reassure the public that were no immediate fears of a second wave of Covid-19.

“There are worrying signs of an upsurge of the epidemic in some areas”, he told France Info public radio today.

He added that the virus is circulating following an “upward trend”.

Many of the current clusters involve abattoirs or other professional settings such as old age homes or hospitals.

Others had resulted from family reunions during the summer holidays.

Earlier on Monday, Véran said on France Info radio that there were 400-500 active clusters across the country. But the radio later clarified that this includes figures dating back to 9 May. 

The French National Health Agency indicated that there are currently active 97 Covid-19 outbreak clusters. They are being investigated by the health authorities to determine who the patients may have contaminated and proceed with isolation of people at risk.

“At this point, we are very far from a second wave," Véran said. "The goal is not to worry people excessively, but to keep them on their guard.”

As of 20 July, face masks have been made mandatory in all enclosed public spaces including shops, covered markets and banks.

People who do not comply fines of 135 euros. "[But] we're not going to start handing out fines for people reuniting with their families," Véran said.

Higher infection rate in Brittany

Nationwide the "R" number, indicating the viral transmission rate, now stands at 1.2, meaning 10 infected people will infect an additional 12 on average, according to the National Health Agency.

But in some areas on the French mainland, the rate is much higher, with the southern Mediterranean region including Marseille and Nice now reporting a rate of 1.55. Brittany, in western France, stood at 2.6.

Véran indicated that France has the capacity to carry out 700,000 tests weekly. Since last week, people arriving in France by plane have been tested at the airport.

The health minister said that Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport is capable of carrying out 2,000 tests per day. But it is not possible to test all passengers, as there are “over 20,000 people arriving daily” from countries on high alert.

Asked if France had enough masks to go around, having been caught woefully short in March, Véran said he was focusing on ensuring there were stocks in vacation hotspots as well as the Paris region.

The government aims to have a stockpile of 60 million face masks by October, compared with just 3.5 million when the outbreak began.

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