PARIS: French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Sunday (Feb 23) new cases of COVID-19 were "very likely" in France and health authorities were ready in case of an epidemic, adding he was "particularly watchful" of the situation in Italy.
"Today, there is only one infected patent in France, who is hospitalised in Lyon. His health condition is not worrying. All the others, apart from an 80-year old man who died, were released cured and are not contagious," Veran said in an interview with Le Parisien/Aujourdhui en France-Dimanche newspaper.
Cases of the new coronavirus in Italy, the most affected country in Europe, rose on Saturday to nearly 80, killing two people and prompting the government to close off the worst hit areas in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto.
READ: Fear, isolation cloaks town at centre of Italy's COVID-19 outbreak
"Other cases, it is very likely. An epidemic? We are getting ready for it," Veran added.
Veran said the number of laboratories in France equipped with diagnostic tests would be increased to reach a capacity of "several thousands" of tests a day, against 400 now.
China reported another fall in new coronavirus infections outside of its epicentre on Sunday, but world health officials warned it was too early to make predictions about the outbreak as new cases and fears of contagion increased elsewhere.