Health News

In French Alpine village, families line up for coronavirus tests

LES CONTAMINES-MONTJOIE, France (Reuters) - Residents, a few wearing facemasks, lined up in a French Alpine village on Sunday to get tested for the new coronavirus as authorities sought to contain the spread after five Britons contracted the illness there.

A view of the house where five British nationals including a child, who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus after staying in the same ski chalet with a person who had been in Singapore, were staying at the French Alpine resort of Les Contamines-Montjoie, France February 8, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

More than 100 people were being tested, including families whose children went to school with a 9-year-old who was among the five. People made way for those suffering from colds or flu-like symptoms to be tested first.

Residents appeared to be taking the process in their stride.

“We musn’t become paranoid,” said Emmanuelle Rieu, who said her child is a schoolmate of the infected British child.

“If they are infected, I would like to know and do what is necessary. Otherwise, I am not worried about what comes next but I would just like to know. And my children are coughing a lot so, of course, it’s on our mind.”

The new cases in France were diagnosed on Saturday after a Briton who had traveled to Singapore on business was diagnosed with the virus on his return to Britain. Health officials found he had been to Les Contamines-Montjoie on his way home and had shared a chalet with fellow Britons.

Authorities are tracing all of the people who potentially had been exposed to the virus, Health Minister Agnes Buzyn told a news conference in the village, which has a population of around 2,000 and is close to the large ski area of Chamonix.

Buzyn said there was no reason to believe the virus was circulating in the area.

Eleven people who stayed in the chalet, including the five who tested positive for the virus, are now under hospital observation. And a woman who shared a flight with the British man thought to have brought the virus with him to village had been hospitalized for checks, Buzyn added.

Ski slopes were still open on Sunday but two schools near the village will be closed this week due to the investigation.

Buzyn said that not all of the children were exposed to the same degree.

“It’s when they’re close, because they’re friends or because they shared a desk,” she said.

Reporting by Marina Depetris and Sarah White; Editing by Frances Kerry