New test proves coronavirus was in Europe as early as December

A French doctor has claimed there were coronavirus patients in the country as far back as December.

Dr Yves Cohen, an intensive care chief in Paris, said new tests on patient samples has confirmed the presence of the virus in France weeks before the first officially recorded case.

He told broadcaster BFMTV that his team revisited negative tests for flu and other coronaviruses on 24 patients who had been admitted to hospital with respiratory symptoms in December and January.

He said: ‘Of the 24 patients, we had one positive result for Covid-19 on 27 December when he was in hospital with us.’

Dr Cohen said his team repeated the tests several times to confirm the result.

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He is now calling for other negative test samples from the same time to be reviewed, adding that he has reported the case to the regional health authorities.

Dr Cohen’s announcement emerged as French authorities confirmed it will not quarantine travellers arriving from the European Union and Britain after an earlier conflicting announcement prompted confusion.

The quarantine won’t apply to people coming from Europe’s border-free area which includes Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland.

The French presidency clarified the measure after the government suggested on Saturday that it was planning to impose a 14-day mandatory quarantine on all travellers entering France, including French citizens.

For people arriving in France from other regions of the world, the rules will be detailed in the coming days.

The measure is part of a new bill that extend a ‘state of health emergency’ until July 24 to limit the spread of coronavirus. The measure is being debated at parliament this week.

France is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries with at least 24,895 deaths from coronavirus. It is preparing to ease lockdown measures on May 11.

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