New mutated coronavirus strain may be spreading in France, government says

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France’s health minister Olivier Véran said Monday that a new strain of the virus that causes Covid-19 detected in Britain might be spreading in France, although no tests have spotted it so far.

“It is entirely possible that the virus is circulating in France,” Véran told Europe 1 radio, adding it had been identified on one occasion in Italy, but not on French territory at this stage.

“In recent days, 500 strains have been identified and analysed [in France], and this particular variant has not been found,” Véran explained. “But that does not mean it is not spreading.”

The new variant of the coronavirus causing Covid-19 detected in Britain appears to be 70 percent more contagious than other strains.

Its confirmation prompted new lockdown measures affecting 16 million people in the south of England, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reversed plans to ease restrictions over Christmas.

France and other European countries imposed temporary restrictions on travel from the UK. British and European Union officials were holding emergency meetings about the new strain on Monday.

“Covid-19 can mutate, like any virus. In Britain, a new variant is spreading widely,” Véran wrote on social media. “It is the same disease, but it could be more contagious.”

“Most cases identified by genetic sequencing in the south and east of England correspond to this new variant,” Véran said. “As long as we do not have all the information about this new variant, we will try to limit it from spreading.”

Véran also said the vaccines currently being deployed in Britain and en route for approval in France should be effective against new strains of the new coronavirus.

“In therory, there is no reason to think that the vaccine should not be effective,” Véran said.

(with newswires)