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Coronavirus: Family reunions spark new clusters in France

Health authorities in France have warned that family events have made up a significant proportion of new “clusters” of Covid-19 cases reported in the past two weeks, and said the risk of infection remains high.

In its most recent update (Friday July 17), health body la Direction Générale de la Santé said: “The virus that causes Covid-19 is on the rise [in France]” and highlighted the 386 clusters that had been identified since May 9. Of these, 97 are still under investigation.

The Nord department has the most clusters still under investigation (12; and 31 since May 11, a national record); followed by Mayenne, which was declared on alert last week.

Read more: French department on ‘high alert’ after spike in Covid cases

And while elderly care homes were previously seen as major centres at risk of outbreaks, now, health authority Santé Publique France (SPF) has said that professional sites and private homes are becoming more of a factor in the virus spread.

Of the 97 clusters still under investigation, 15% were declared among extended family networks, and 12% due to public or private events. These reports are up 8% now compared to July 1, SPF said.

In Nouvelle-Aquitaine, in which 10 clusters are being investigated - including six in Bordeaux (Dordogne) and two in Vienne - only one has been traced back to an elderly care home. All the others are linked to private events, family networks, or businesses.

The departmental health authority l’Agence Régionale de Santé (ARS) reminded people to “rigorously apply barrier methods”, as the cases are linked to “private events” - such as weddings and parties - from within a “wide family network”.

The ARS said that party and wedding season, as well as tourism, over the summer months could contribute to the spread of the virus.

Dr. Pierre Blaise, of the ARS Pays de la Loire, said: “We are able to link some of these clusters together, showing that they feed each other. As they occur in social or professional environments that are particularly favourable to the spread of the virus, the risk of a rise in the spread is significant.”


Workplaces also a factor

Similarly, businesses and workplaces represent 25% of clusters currently under investigation (a rise of 5% since July 1), - a clear contrast from the height of the epidemic, when many people were not at work, or were working from home.

In the Nord department, health authorities stated: “All employers must watch out for the security of their workers and impose protection measures, strict respect for barrier methods, and enforce the imminent mandatory wearing of masks in enclosed spaces.”

Currently, it is only mandatory to wear a mask in businesses in which physical distancing is not possible, or when contact with the public is frequent - such as in hairdressing salons.

Read more: Doctors in France call for face masks in indoor public areas

But the doctors who signed an open letter in newspaper Libération last week said that it was “indispensable” that masks be made obligatory in workplaces as well as in public.

The Agence France-Presse reported them as saying: “The virus does not care about the subtlety of administrative definitions of enclosed spaces, it is the same everywhere.”

he French government is continuing to update an interactive map showing the number of confirmed cases and hospitalisations across the country, including the numbers currently in intensive care.

The map allows you to click on your region, and zoom in to see exactly where the cases are located, by department.

The website allows you to search by hospitalisations, new cases, new intensive care admissions, and hospital deaths. Click on the image below to search.

(Map: / Screenshot)

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