Paris (AFP)

Five new patients of the coronavirus appeared in Asia were identified and hospitalized without sign of gravity in France, of the British having rubbed at the end of January in a chalet of Haute-Savoie a compatriot of return of Singapore.

These cases represent a "cluster", that is to say a grouping of several cases around an "initial case", which is a British national who stayed from January 24, for a few days, in Contamines-Montjoie in Haute-Savoie, announced the Minister of Health on Saturday.

The Briton was returning from Singapore, said Buzyn at a hastily organized press briefing.

These five people positive for the new coronavirus - four adults and a child - but also other "close contacts" of this Briton, "that is to say 11 people in all, all of British nationality", who all lived in the same chalet, were hospitalized overnight Friday to Saturday in Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble, according to the minister.

- Crisis meeting in Matignon -

The British national responsible for these five new infections in France is himself currently in the United Kingdom, and is not included in the accounts of the Ministry of Health.

These new cases are in addition to the six reported so far on French territory. Patients who are also still hospitalized, even if several are better and could leave within a few days.

One of them, however, an 80-year-old Chinese patient in intensive care in Paris is "still in critical condition", recalled on Saturday the Director General of Health, Prof Jérôme Salomon, present at the press point at sides of Mrs. Buzyn.

To inform the inhabitants of Haute-Savoie after these new cases, a press conference will take place at 2 p.m. this Saturday at the prefecture in Annecy and a specific phone number, 0800 100 379, has been set up for those affected by this "cluster".

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will also meet the ministers concerned in Matignon at midday.

Health authorities, in France as in Singapore, from which the Briton who originated the new cases was returning, are now carrying out a vast investigation to trace the source of these contaminations and check if other people may have been infected with the new coronaviruses.

- International survey -

"It is now an important operation to identify contact cases which is starting," to find and inform people with close contact with the Briton, said the Minister of Health.

According to Professor Salomon, as part of this "international investigation", the French authorities are in close contact with their counterparts in Singapore. They are investigating in particular a professional meeting which took place in a hotel in the city-state from 20 to 22 January, and in which "94 foreigners" participated.

Since then, "clusters" have been reported among participants in this meeting in Malaysia and South Korea, and another case of contamination, of a person who also participated in this professional event in Singapore, was announced in the Kingdom - United, he detailed.

The new coronavirus, which appeared in December in the city of Wuhan (central China), has already infected more than 34,500 people and killed 722 patients in mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Macao), according to the latest report on Saturday by Chinese health authorities. .

The epidemic continues to spread elsewhere in the world, with more than 320 confirmed cases of infection in around thirty countries and territories.

© 2020 AFP