Five British nationals including a child have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in France, after staying in the same ski chalet and coming into contact with a Briton who had been in Singapore, the French health minister said.
Agnès Buzyn said none of the patients were in a serious condition.
She described the new outbreak as a “cluster, grouping around one original case” and said it had occurred in the Haute Savoie region in the eastern French Alps.
“That original case was brought to our attention last night,” she said. “It is a British national who had returned from Singapore where he had stayed between 20 and 23 January, and he arrived in France on 24 January for four days.”
The Briton at the origin of the cluster had since returned to the UK.
The French prime minister, Édouard Philippe, called a meeting of health ministers on Saturday and the ministry has opened a hotline (0800 100 379) in an attempt to find out who else may have been in contact with the Britons.
“We’re starting an important operation to identify cases of those in contact,” Buzyn said.
The new cases were part of a group of 11 Britons who had stayed at a chalet in the ski resort of Contamines-Montjoie. As well as the five who tested positive for the virus, the others were being kept under surveillance in hospitals in Lyon, Saint Etienne and Grenoble.
Grenoble hospital said it was not authorised to give any more information. The director of the regional health authority is expected to give a press conference on Saturday afternoon.
The latest outbreak brings the total number of people infected with the virus in France to 11. Health officials said some of the original six cases, being treated in hospital in Paris and Bordeaux, were ready to be released.
This Saturday is one of the busiest days of the year for French ski resorts because it is the start of school holidays in the Paris region.
At a newsagents shop in Contamines-Montjoie one resident said local people were worried.
“It’s not just the news but the disinformation that’s worrying,” she said.
Other shops and hotels referred callers to the local town hall.
Les Contamines-Montjoie, 75 minutes from Geneva and sitting between Chamonix and Megève, has a population of about 1,160 people which is swelled by an influx of tourists every winter. It is close to Mont Blanc and popular with mountaineers and skiiers. The word contamines does not mean “contaminated” as some supposed on social media but “ploughable land on the squire’s estate”.
Meanwhile, four members of a British family living in Mallorca are being tested for the coronavirus after coming into contact with a person who recently tested positive for the virus in France.
The Balearic Islands health department said the father of the family had gone to Mallorca’s Son Espases hospital after feeling ill and was placed in isolation. His partner and their two daughters were being evaluated in the same hospital.
The health department said it had activated its coronavirus protocol. “In accordance with professional guidelines, the man remains in isolation and all members of the family have been tested and the tests sent to a laboratory. All remain at the hospital,” it said.
The department urged people to remain calm while the tests were carried out and said it was working closely with Spain’s health ministry.
Spain confirmed its first case of the coronavirus on 31 January after a man was diagnosed on the remote La Gomera island in the Canaries.
The patient is part of a group of five people in isolation and under observation on the island after it emerged they had come into contact with a German man diagnosed with the virus.
US officials have announced that a 60-year-old citizen had become the first foreign victim of the coronavirus in China. A Japanese man also died in Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, having had symptoms consistent with the disease.
A US embassy spokesman in Beijing told Reuters: “We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss. Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we have no further comment.”
A British man with the virus is said to be feeling well and in good spirits after being transferred from the cruise ship Diamond Princess to hospital in Japan.
Alan Steele, of Wolverhampton, who was on honeymoon on the ship, was moved to hospital on Friday while his wife, Wendy Marshall Steele, remained onboard. She had been in telephone contact with her husband and said on Saturday that he was still feeling healthy.
“Alan is well, Japanese doctors are excellent,” she posted on Facebook. “He is in a little room. Just doctor and nurse visit him.” She said she was also doing well but had “cabin fever” as she continued to be confined to her room on the ship.
There are nearly 3,700 other passengers and crew being quarantined on the ship. They have been offered access to mental health counselling and enhanced internet access.
In a video posted on Twitter, Rai Caluori, the executive vice-president at Princess Cruises, said: “We recognise that a situation like this can create unprecedented stress, so we’re also offering our guests and crew specialised telephonic mental health counselling if they should be experiencing such stress and mental health issues.”