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Here Is What Travelers Must Know As Coronavirus Skyrockets Towards Epidemic In France

Here Is What Travelers Must Know As Coronavirus Skyrockets Towards Epidemic In France

A woman walks past a screen displaying precautionary measures on reducing the spread of the [+] coronavirus in Mulhouse, eastern France, one of the hotb of the outbreak in France. The government is on red alert for an epidemic as the number of cases soar. In the Haut-Rhin region of Alsace they surged eightfold in 48 hours to reach 81 Friday March 7. Nearly 900 schools in the region will be closed from March 9 for a week, and large gatherings are forbidden. Nationwide the number of cases are snowballing, with the toll now at 1126 cases and 16 deaths. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

AFP via Getty Images

[This post has been updated]

France is on red alert for an epidemic, as the number of coronavirus cases soared dramatically again to 1126 cases, 19 deaths late Sunday–from 613 infections and 9 deaths Friday.

“The transition to stage 3 (epidemic) is expected any day now,” declared BFMTV, as President Emmanuel Macron called for a “Defence Council” of senior ministers Sunday at the Elysée Palace. “The virus is circulating with great intensity in certain departments.” Will the whole of France soon be quarantined off like northern Italy it asks.

The regions most affected according to the French public health department Santé Publique, are: Grand Est with 250 cases; Hauts-de-France with 173 cases (111 of them in the Oise); Bourgogne-Franche-Comté with 129 cases; Greater Paris/Île-de-France with 104 cases; and Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes with 102 cases. 39 people are in a serious condition, including four members of the French National Assembly.

The country is gearing up to declare a full-blown epidemic. Both Macron and health minister Oliver Véran declared that “inevitable” on Friday. “Currently at level 2 in the strategy to fight the coronavirus, France is “inexorably” advancing towards the epidemic stage after a new leap in contamination,” reports newspaper La Croix. An emergency response plan has been triggered nationwide in hospitals and clinics.

Several countries including the U.S. and Australia are updating their travel advisories on France in line with this news, though neither have lifted their alert from level 2.

As the outbreak of the coronavirus in France surges to 1126 cases on Sunday March 8, the map shows [+] the disease spread across all 13 French metropolitan regions. Red indicates over 75 cases, dark pink over 25, pink more than 10, and pale pink at least 1. Being an island no doubt is helping Corsica. The COVID-19 disease has also touched 2 French overseas territories.

Santé Publique/BFMTV
1126 Cases In France, Up From 38 In 10 Days

On Friday evening France’s public health chief, Jérôme Salomon, said the spread of the COVID-19 virus continues to accelerate. All 13 metropolitan regions are now affected, as well as two French overseas territories: Guyana and Martinique.

The two hardest hit departments: the Oise, about 90 km (55 miles) north of Paris, and the Haut-Rhin, southern Alsace, have been placed at a higher “reinforced stage two” level, as the emergency response–“plan blanc”–is unfurled nationally. 57 health establishments are on standby across France, ready to tackle an epidemic Salomon confirmed.


French Prime minister Edouard Philippe and Health minister Olivier Veran give a press conference [+] Friday March 6 in Paris as the number of people testing positive for the new coronavirus spirals in ten days from 38 to 1126 cases, and deaths from 1 to 16. Over 1500 schools are closed for a fortnight from March 9 in the Haut-Rhin and L’Oise, and gatherings of more than 50 people in those regions are forbidden. (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY)

AFP via Getty Images
Contamination Hotb Near Paris, Alps Alsace

Salomon said the efforts to contain the virus in France are honing in on six contamination zones. One of them being the Oise, “a major source of infection”, with 111 cases. Of five other zones under investigation as disease hubs, two are in the alpine region of the Haute-Savoie, near Mont Blanc where a total of 51 cases are reported. The two communes concerned are Contamines-Montjoie and La Balme.

In the city of Mulhouse in the Haut-Rhin, eastern France, there is “an intense circulation of the virus” Salomon said, with several dozen cases. There are also 136 people infected in Strasbourg, in the northern Alsace Bas-Rhin region.

Due to the uptick of the virus in the “capital of Europe”, the European Parliament has decided to cancel its usual plenary session next week (from March 9) in Strasbourg, and hold it in Brussels instead. This was to avoid “significantly higher health risks” from the coronavirus, Parliament President David Sassoli said in an email Thursday.


A woman posts up an alert outside a school in Mulhouse eastern France on Friday March 6, warning [+] parents that “To limit the spread of the coronavirus, the care of children can no longer be provided”. The number of people testing positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus in the eastern French Haut-Rhin department increased eightfold in 48 hours to reach 81, Friday. Around 100 schools will be closed in the region for a week from March 7, and gatherings of more than 50 people in closed areas are forbidden. This as the number of cases in France reaches 613, with 9 dead, and the country is on high alert for an epidemic. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON)

AFP via Getty Images
All Schools In Haut-Rhin And Oise Close For A Fortnight

“In the Haut-Rhin: all schools, colleges, high schools and creches are closed Monday March 9 for 15 days,” reports France Info Grand Est. “About 30 to 40,000 children are affected by the closures” reports France Bleu radio which provides a full list of the schools on its website. 877 schools in the Oise and 572 in the Haut-Rhin are closed reports BFMTV.

Worldwide, there are now more than 100,000 people with the virus, which has claimed 3,000 lives. In Germany the number of people testing positive doubled this week to over 500. While in Italy the outbreak has exploded to 4,636 cases-from 3,858 on Thursday–with 197 deaths reports Corriere della Sera. 

Health Measures In Place To Tackle The Coronavirus

Measures include an airport screening program at Paris Charles de Gaulle, staffed by doctors and paramedics, for travelers arriving from China, Hong-Kong and Macao.

57 new emergency care facilities nationwide (“Samu”) have been set up across France in the case of an epidemic.

15 million surgical masks have been distributed, including to 138 health institutions that are treating confirmed Coronavirus COVID-19 cases. Only those with symptoms are advised to wear them.

All indoor events for over 5,000 are being cancelled including concerts, cultural and sporting events. Major ones are listed on Paris Info such as Andrea Bocelli at the AccorHotels Arena, postponed from March to June.

The traditional French greeting kiss, and handshaking, are discouraged.

In the Oise and the Haut-Rhin, the government is trying to curb all gatherings, “except those which are essential to social and democratic life.” The Prime Minister has urged “fragile individuals”, those with ongoing or chronic conditions, and the elderly, “to stay at home as much as possible”.


The chart shows the dramatic spike in coronavirus cases in France since the end of February. While [+] the number of cases was fairly stable in the month up to January 24, rising from 2 to 12, since then the outbreak has taken a rocketship trajectory and continues to rise

Santé Publique/French public health department/BFMTV
Information Hotlines And Websites

For round-the-clock information about the coronavirus call the national toll-free number: 0 800 130 000. This line is not for medical advice.

For serious medical concerns call the SAMU emergency medical services: dial 15.

The government has issued special advice to travelers in France on the coronavirus. If you become unwell after arriving in France, “unless you have severe symptoms,” do not go to hospital emergency centres. Dial 15

This government website too, though not available in English (but easily translatable) has the best up to date information on the scale of the outbreak in France, medical advice, details of the emergency plan etc.

Update [March 9, 2020]: This post was edited to include the latest number of coronavirus cases in France.