PARIS – Several people stationed at the 110 Creil airbase outside Paris have fallen ill with coronavirus, the French military confirmed, with the base effectively being placed on lockdown. Defense Minister Florence Parly confirmed on Friday that a number of coronavirus cases have been registered at the military facility, located to the North of the French capital, RT reported.
While Parly did not provide the exact tally, earlier reports by local media suggested that at least four people, including a civilian employee, had contracted the virus. An “epidemiological investigation” into the outbreak is now underway, Parly stated, while all mass activities, as well as trips to and from the facility, have been suspended. Precautionary measures are also being undertaken at other military installations.
If not contained promptly, the outbreak could spell serious trouble for the French military, as the airbase houses much more than low-ranking grunts. A number of units with the Directorate of Military Intelligence, as well as other special military units are stationed at the facility.
While there’s no official word on the source of the outbreak so far, the Creil airbase was used to launch emergency evacuation flights for French nationals stranded in the epidemic’s ground zero, the Chinese city of Wuhan. All of the infected evacuees reportedly remained at the base, while the crews who participated in the flights were placed under quarantine.
The number of confirmed cases in France shot up by 19 on Friday and now stands at 57 in total. In a bid to prevent further spread of the deadly illness, French Health Minister Olivier Veran urged the public to abide by official safety guidelines and avoid close contacts with other people altogether.
“The virus is now circulating on our territory … I recommend that, for now, people do not shake hands,” Veran added.
While the scale of the outbreak in France remains comparatively minor, the recent surge in cases has fueled concerns. France’s neighbor, Italy, has been the hardest-hit among European nations, with at least 21 dead and 888 cases registered nationwide.