For 14 days, these 180 people from Wuhan will be followed by medical staff 24 hours a day in a seaside resort near Marseille.
Departing the day before Wuhan, the epicentre of the new coronavirus epidemic, some 180 people, mostly French, were preparing to spend their first night on Friday 31st January 2020 in a holiday centre in a seaside resort near Marseille, where they must remain confined for two weeks.
Friday evening, the returnees each took possession of individual rooms with modern and minimalist decoration, in which they will have to spend 14 days, described an AFP journalist also confined after a week of reporting in Wuhan.
They are however free to move around the grounds of the holiday centre where medical staff support them 24 hours a day. In the evening, none of them had passed a thorough medical examination with the exception of taking a temperature, which will be mandatory twice a day for the duration of the quarantine.
On their arrival in France at midday, on the military base of Istres, the passengers of the plane chartered by the government applauded the landing of their aircraft. They then joined by coach their residence in Carry-le-Rouet, on the Blue Coast.
Two of the returnees, who showed symptoms of coronavirus infection, were transported to the Timone hospital in Marseille, where they tested negative, said Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn during the evening of a press conference in Paris. In France, six cases of infection have so far been detected by the authorities.
The minister had previously welcomed passengers at the military base in Istres, the majority of them French, and some foreigners, including Chinese spouses of French nationals.
“All the French are waiting for you (…) Rest, welcome back to French soil,” she said.
“Our fellow citizens have arrived on French soil, it is a relief for us and them. They are happy to find French soil, they feel safe I think”
The AFP journalist repatriated on Friday testified to ” a very calm atmosphere” on the plane, without “tension”. He spoke of “the good surprise” at the announcement of the place of quarantine but also the “sadness” of some: “for some, this departure is to make a mark on life, (they) leave Wuhan and don’t know if they will come back. ”
A second plane, an A380, must bring back from Wuhan other Frenchmen if there are any who have “regrets” not to have taken the first flight, as well as nationals of other countries, said the Minister of health.
“The plane should be able to land on Sunday, I cannot say more for the moment either on the number of people it will repatriate or on the final place of its landing”
The Red Cross mobilised
In Carry-le-Rouet, the Club Vacanciel, surrounded by a large pine forest, is located in a cove accessible only by a narrow dead-end of the small seaside resort of 5800 inhabitants, about thirty kilometres from Marseille. In a decree, the prefect of Bouches-du-Rhône prohibited overflying the area until Tuesday.
About 80 health reservists will take turns in teams, for a period of two weeks renewable once, specifies another order.
The Red Cross, which mobilizes nearly 200 volunteers and employees, will ensure the distribution of meals, made by an outside preparer, said its director-general, Jean-Christophe Combe.
The members of the Red Cross will also play the role of a concierge to run errands for returnees and will offer entertainment, especially for children – around fifty, including some babies – if their medical situation allows.
« Carrynovirus »
During their period of isolation, returnees will be subject to medical surveillance to ensure that they are not infected with the virus.
Measures that did not reassure all residents of Carry-le-Rouet on Friday. At a public meeting Friday night, in a tense atmosphere, the prefect Pierre Dartout answered their questions and assured that “there was no risk to the city’s population .”
The government will set up on Saturday a toll-free number for people who have questions about the coronavirus not justifying to call 15.
For the time being, the number of infected patients has risen to nearly 10,000 in mainland China (excluding Hong Kong) and 213 patients have died. A hundred patients have been listed in twenty other countries and no patient has died outside of China.
Air France has suspended all scheduled flights to and from mainland China until February 9. Many companies have done the same, but China remains accessible and is not cut off from the world.