‘We are only at the beginning’ of the coronavirus epidemic, Macron says
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French President Emmanuel Macron warned Tuesday that France was "only at the beginning" of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed 30 people in the country and infected 1,606.
"We are only at the beginning of this epidemic," Macron said after a surprise visit to the SAMU ambulance service at Necker hospital in Paris, while urging the public not to panic and saying the authorities were well organised to face the crisis.
France is the second-worst-affected country in Europe after Italy – which has effectively gone into lockdown to stop the spread of the virus – and Culture Minister Franck Riester and five MPs are among those who have tested positive.
Preventive measures have also been stepped up at the Élysée presidential palace, with Macron's cabinet chief ordered to work from home after having been in contact with an infected person.
But with only a fraction of the 463 deaths reported by Italy, France has thus far refrained from taking the draconian measures ordered by the Italian state.
Clusters of cases have been identified in half a dozen French regions, with schools closed in three – the northern Oise area, the northeastern Haut-Rhin area and the city of Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.