PARIS, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- The number of people testing positive for the novel coronavirus in France increased by 19 in one day to 57 on Friday, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced at a daily press meeting.
"A new stage in the epidemic has been reached," the minister said. "That's to say that the virus is circulating on our territory and that we must curb this spread."
Veran said those infected had either interacted with already known patients or been traveled recently to zones of risk. Among the new cases, 12 isolated cases are under investigation.
"Many clusters have been detected, and whose contagion chains are identified and contamination can be explained," the minister added.
He also reiterated the need to respect "simple gestures, but more essential than ever" to contain the virus outbreak, notably as washing hands, sneezing into one's elbow and avoiding handshakes.
In the northern department of l'Oise, the most-affected region with 18 infections, schools would prolong winter break by three days, the minister said, stressing that children returning from a risk area should not go to school.
Nearly 2,000 students who had recently visited zones of risk, have been requested to undergo a 14-day quarantine before being allowed to move on, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said early Friday.
The French government has already recommended nationals to defer unnecessary trips to Lombardy and Veneto, the hotspot regions that have confirmed majority of the infection cases in Italy. All school trips to Italy have been suspended until further notice.
French President Emmanuel Macron would chair an exceptional cabinet meeting and defense council on Saturday "to anticipate" and to "adapt" to the coronavirus outbreak which is taking a toll on the economic activity of the country.
Also on Friday, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters that he upheld his earlier forecast of a negative impact of 0.1 point to the French economy from the coronavirus outbreak.
"This figure may be higher depending on the evolution of the disease. I will have a clear idea about the impact of the epidemic on growth following the feedback that companies will give next week," he said.