Coronavirus: France finds first case of new variant

3 weeks ago
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A health worker, wearing a protective suit and a face mask, holds a test tube after administering a nasal swab to a patient in a temporary testing site for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Zenith Arena in Lille, France, October 15, 2020.

Reuters

France has confirmed the first case in the country of the more contagious coronavirus variant recently identified in the UK.

The French health ministry said the person was a Frenchman in the town of Tours who had arrived from London on 19 December.

The ministry said he was asymptomatic, and currently self-isolating.

The appearance of the new coronavirus variant in England triggered travel curbs with dozens of countries.

France closed its border but ended its ban on Wednesday, providing people tested negative before travelling. Thousands of lorry drivers spent Christmas Day in their cabs in Kent waiting to cross the English Channel.

What more do we know about France’s first case?

It was confirmed after the man was tested in hospital on 21 December, the health ministry said.

The infected person, a French national living in the UK, was feeling alright, it said without providing further details.

According to data from Nextstrain, which has been monitoring the genetic codes of viral samples around the world, cases in Denmark and Australia also came from the UK. The Netherlands also reported cases.

What is the new variant?

The new variant first detected in England in September is blamed for sharp rises in levels of positive tests in recent weeks in London, the east of England and the South East.

About two-thirds of people testing positive in these areas could have the new variant – but this is only an estimate, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says.

Three things are coming together that mean the new variant is attracting attention:

  • It is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus
  • It has mutations that affect part of the virus likely to be important
  • Some of those mutations have already been shown in the lab to increase the ability of the virus to infect cells

All of these come together to build a case for a virus that can spread more easily, says the BBC’s health and science correspondent, James Gallagher.

However, there is no evidence that the new variant is more dangerous, and the leading vaccines developed in recent months should still work, experts say.

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BBC News – Europe

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