June 15, 2020 / 7:53 AM / 23 days ago

French health minister: Worst of epidemic behind us, but virus not dead

FILE PHOTO: French Health and Solidarity Minister Olivier Veran gestures during a televised address to announce the second phase of the easing of lockdown measures amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from June 2, at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, France May 28, 2020. Philippe Lopez/Pool via REUTERS/File photo

PARIS (Reuters) - The worst part of the coronavirus epidemic is behind France, but people must remain vigilant as the virus continues to circulate, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Monday.

“The largest part of the epidemic is behind us but the virus is not dead. We did not completely defeat it and we are controlling its circulation. We continue testing,” Veran told LCI television.

France reported on Sunday nine new coronavirus deaths over the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 29,407. It was the fifth day in which the number of fatalities remained below 30.

President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he was accelerating France’s exit from its coronavirus lockdown, with restaurants and cafes in Paris allowed to reopen fully from Monday, the same day France lifts restrictions at its borders for European Union travellers.

Asked if he feared a new wave of infections following news of a fresh cluster of novel coronavirus cases centred around a wholesale market in China, Veran said he was not worried but vigilant.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Alison Williams and Alex Richardson

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