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France says up to 500 virus clusters but no 'second wave' yet

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Paris, France   /   Mon, July 20, 2020   /   04:15 pm
France says up to 500 virus clusters but no 'second wave' yet 			Employees, wearing protective face masks, applaud to welcome clients inside the department store Le Printemps Haussmann in Paris on the first day of summer sales following the outbreak of the COVID-19 in France, July 15, 2020. (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes)

French authorities have reported 400 to 500 active coronavirus outbreak clusters but there are no signs of an imminent "second wave," Health Minister Olivier Veran said Monday.

Many of the current virus clusters involve abattoirs or other contained professional settings such as old age homes, he said.

Others had resulted from family reunions during the summer holidays.

"At this point we are very far from a second wave," Veran told Franceinfo radio, as face masks were made mandatory in all enclosed public spaces including shops, covered markets and administrative buildings.

"The goal is not to worry people excessively, but to keep them on their guard," he said.

Nationwide the "R" number indicating the viral transmission rate now stands at 1.2, meaning 10 infected people will infect an additional 12 on average, according to the Sante Publique France health agency.

But in some areas on the French mainland, the rate is much higher, with the southern Mediterranean region including Marseille and Nice now reporting a rate of 1.55.

Brittany in western France stood at 2.6 percent -- meaning 10 infected people could infect on average 26 more people.

If the "worrying trends" continue the government will again consider regional lockdowns or even new nationwide confinement orders, Veran said, adding:  "All options are on the table."

People without face masks in public spaces risk fines of 135 euros ($155), but "we're not going to start handing out fines for people reuniting with their families!" he added.

Asked if France had enough masks to go around, having been caught woefully short when the outbreak gained speed in March, Veran said he was focusing on ensuring there were stocks in vacation hotspots as well as the Paris region.

The government aims to have a stockpile of 60 million face masks by October, compared with just 3.5 million when the outbreak began.

France has been one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, with a coronavirus death toll of over 30,150 people.