Coronavirus threat: France warned over ‘extremely worrying’ speed of deadly outbreak

France is struggling to contain the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, its top health official Jerome Salomon said on Monday, as he warned the situation was “worrying” and spiralling out of control. 

M Salomon told France Inter radio: “The number of cases has doubled every three days. This shows that the situation is extremely worrying and deteriorating very fast.”

The number of deaths in France from the flu-like virus increased by more than a third on Sunday to 127 and over 5,423 people have been infected. Some 400 are in intensive care.

M Salomon added: “There is a real worry that the speed of the outbreak could saturate hospitals and this is something we absolutely want to avoid.” 

M Salomon voiced bitter regret over the fact that scores of Parisians had ventured outdoors in large numbers on Sunday despite official advice to stay at home and a government shutdown on bars and restaurants around the country.

“A lot of people have not understood that they need to stay at home. This weak adherence to the measures means that we are not succeeding in curbing the outbreak of the epidemic,” he warned. “I appeal to all French people to mobilise in the fight.”

He also said it would be “catastrophic” if France reached a point where its health workers were forced to decide to save the lives of certain patients over that of others.

“I would like people to realise that hundreds are people are sick and being treated in intensive care. Health workers have sounded the alarm and are asking the French for help…Stay at home, it’s as simple as that,” M Salomon continued.

France is reportedly preparing an order that would put its inhabitants under partial lockdown to combat the coronavirus epidemic, sources aware of the planning said on Sunday, a move that would tighten further restrictions on public life.

One source familiar with the drafting of the decree said the confinement would begin at midnight on Tuesday, but it was not clear whether the government had taken a final decision to order people to stay in their homes or how long the confinement would last.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe ordered all restaurants, bars and cinemas to close and urged citizens to minimise their non-essential movements as the number of coronavirus infections and deaths spiralled higher.

“We must absolutely limit our movements,” he said.

But on Sunday, people mingled in parks, river banks and public spaces from Paris to Marseille, causing concern among officials that the public was turning a deaf ear to warnings.

Panic buying in the United States, Britain, France and Australia saw leaders appeal for calm over the sometimes fatal virus that has infected over 156,000 people globally and killed more than 5,800.

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