France confirms first case of new coronavirus variant


French health ministry says the man arrived in France from London on December 19 and was asymptomatic.

Health authorities in France have confirmed the country’s first case of the coronavirus variant that prompted strict lockdown measures in the United Kingdom and global travel restrictions.

The French health ministry said a French man who arrived in France from the British capital, London, on December 19 had tested positive for the new variant on Friday.

He had no symptoms and was isolating in his home in the central city of Tours.

Authorities have carried out contact-tracing for the health professionals taking care of the patient, the ministry said. Any of their contacts that were seen as vulnerable would similarly be isolated, it said.

In addition to this first case, several other positive samples that “may suggest the VOC 202012/01 variant are being sequenced” by the specialist laboratories of the national Pasteur Institute, the statement added.

Italian authorities have detected the new strain in a patient in Rome, while the World Health Organization reported that nine cases have been detected in Denmark and one each in the Netherlands and Australia.

[embedded content]

Following the snap 48-hour ban this week, France had reopened its borders to the UK – partly to allow French citizens to return home, as well as to relieve the massive build-up of freight goods – but had instituted a testing policy.

France’s interior ministry said Thursday that limits on travel from the UK will continue “until at least January 6”.

For now, only citizens of France or the EU, those with residency rights there or business travellers are allowed to make the crossing from the UK – if they can show a negative COVID-19 test less than three days old.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock had said on December 14 that a spike in COVID cases in the UK might have been linked to the new variant of the virus in the country. Scientists say the new strain may be up to 70 percent more transmissible.

Hancock said more than 1,000 cases of the new variant had been identified, mainly in southeastern England. Before Christmas, the health minister had announced the expansion of strict lockdown measures across further parts of the south of England to contain the spread of the disease.

With more than 68,000 deaths from the virus, the UK is one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.

Countries around the world have in recent days closed their borders to both the UK and South Africa following the identification of cases of the new, fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus in those countries.

France, meanwhile, registered 20,262 new, confirmed COVID-19 cases and 159 more related deaths in hospitals in the last 24 hours.

France’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases now stands at 2,547,771 while its COVID-19 death toll has reached 62,427 – the seventh-highest in the world.

Read the full article at: aljazeera.com