By Cindi Cook
PARIS (AA) - France's Minister of Health Olivier Veran said Monday that plans would be put underway to activate 70 new urgent medical care facilities nationwide to handle possible outbreaks of the coronavirus.
The announcement came after an emergency session with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and other government officials amid a surge in cases from the virus in neighboring Italy.
The facilities, known as SAMUs, are used for medical care alongside university hospital centers.
France was the first European country to report a case of coronavirus.
The country's junior transport minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told local TV channel BFM Business on Monday that closing borders was a hasty decision by authorities.
"Closing down the borders would make no sense, as the circulation of the virus is not just limited to administrative borders."
The health minister, however, said the government is equipping itself by ordering protective masks.
"We are taking all the measures that are necessary to ensure the safety of the French," Veran said.
France's first outbreak occurred in early February when four British nationals contracted the virus after being exposed to a fifth British national in the French Alps' town of Contamines-Montjoie.
Only one patient remains in a hospital in Lyon in a non-serious state, and all other patients stricken ill have been cured and released.
France has repatriated French nationals from China in three charter flights to avoid further exposure. On Saturday, 34 French nationals returned from Wuhan, moving to quarantine in Branville, northwestern France.
The coronavirus has sounded global alarm with China reporting 2,594 deaths from the outbreak on Monday and health experts grappling to find a cure.
Outside mainland China, the coronavirus has spread to more than 25 other countries including the U.S., the U.K., Spain, Russia, Iran, Singapore and India.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak an international health emergency.