New French health minister: 'credible risk' of coronavirus pandemic

Newly-appointed French Health and Solidarity Minister Olivier Veran attends the opening debate on the French government's pensions reform bill at the National Assembly in Paris, France, February 17, 2020. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - New French health minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday there is a “credible risk” China’s coronavirus outbreak could turn into a pandemic, spreading across the world.

“This is both a working assumption and a credible risk,” Veran told France Info radio.

He said France was ready to deal with all the possibilities and its health system was sufficiently robust and well-equipped.

Four patients who tested positive for the virus remained in hospital in France, he added. An 80-year-old Chinese tourist died from the coronavirus in France last week, the first fatality in Europe.

The death toll in China has climbed to 1,868.

According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease.

On Monday, the head of the WHO’s emergencies program, Dr. Mike Ryan, said when asked whether the outbreak was a pandemic: “The real issue is whether we are seeing efficient community transmission outside of China and at the present time we are not observing that.”

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Andrew Heavens