March 4, 2020 / 12:01 PM / a month ago

Evangelical service in eastern France is center of new virus outbreak

PARIS (Reuters) - French authorities have asked people who took part in an Evangelical Lent celebration in eastern France last month to limit social contact after 10 new confirmed coronavirus infections were traced to the event.

Christophe Lannelongue, head of the eastern France health agency, said on Wednesday that he expected more confirmed cases of coronavirus infection to appear in the region following the discovery of the 10 cases in two families, all linked to a Lent church service in which some 2,000 people took part.

“The chain of contamination clearly started at the meeting of the Lent week of the ‘Porte Ouverte Chretienne’ ... we can expect new cases in coming hours,” Lannelongue said.

Health officials are trying to track all the people wo attended the service, but local prefect Laurent Touvet said this will be difficult as the event was open to the public and there had been no registration of the participants.

Lannelongue called on people who took part to isolate themselves and to report to medical authorities if they show symptoms of coronavirus infection.

The prefecture has also closed two schools attended by children of the infected families, as well as a school that is close to the evangelical church where the infection originated.

In South Korea, doctors are testing more than 200,000 members of a fringe Christian group in the city of Daegu - at the center of the worst outbreak outside China - to which most of South Korea’s cases have been traced.

In France, more than 200 people have been infected with the virus and four people have died, but the virus has appeared separately in several regions and under different circumstances.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq, Editing by William Maclean

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