PARIS, March 5 (Xinhua) -- France has confirmed 423 cases of coronavirus infection and seven patients had died of the virus, Health General Director Jerome Salomon said on Thursday evening.

The cases of infection was 138 more in one day. Most of the people who died from the virus are of elder age. Twenty-three patients are currently in intensive care, said Salomon at a daily briefing of the virus outbreak.

All regions of metropolitan France are now affected by the coronavirus, as well as two overseas regions, Guadeloupe and Guyana, which have detected 3 and 5 cases respectively, he added.

The number of cases has been relatively stable for one month, from 2 to 12 between Jan. 24 and Feb. 24, before increasing sharply in recent days, as illustrated by the curve in the map of coronavirus updated by the Health Ministry.

Salomon stressed that France remains at stage 2 of its epidemic plan and the health authorities' objective is to slow down the spread of the virus and push off the transition to stage 3 as long as possible.

France has been at "stage 2" or the "pre-epidemic level" since Feb. 28. Stage 2 means an epidemiological mosaic with different situations at regional level. Stage 3 is "epidemic" officially declared with the virus widely spreading across the whole county.

French officials and health experts have been raising public awareness that an official epidemic is just a matter of time.

"There is a moment when, we all know (...) an epidemic is inexorable anyway," said President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday afternoon when opening a meeting at the Elysee Palace on the coronavirus with some 30 specialists, according to a video broadcast by the presidency.

Jean-Francois Delfraissy, President of the country's National Consultative Ethics Committee for health and life sciences, sent the same message when interviewed after the attending the meeting.

"We are all convinced that we will reach stage 3 in France. We are trying to save time because it helps to define the areas most affected and it allows us to better prepare for stage 3," said the head of France's highly respected structure that coordinates research on health crises.

"Let's say we are in the order of a few days to one or two weeks maximum (to reach stage 3)", he said, adding that the coronavirus crisis "is a form of crash test" for the country's health system.