No cases of new Covid strain identified in France

The health minister said it is possible the new strain of virus circulating in the UK is already in France, but no cases have been identified yet

21 December 2020
By Joanna York

Health Minister Olivier Véran has said that it is “possible” the new strain of the Covid-19 virus identified in the UK is already circulating in France, although it has not yet been identified. 

Speaking to news source Europe 1 this morning, Mr Véran said that scientists in France had been keeping track of different strains of the virus using genetic sequences created using positive samples from PCR tests. 

He said: “In the past few days, 500 strains have been identified through genetic analysis and the [UK] variant has not been found. But that does not mean that it is not circulating.”

President Macron also called on people in France to “increase vigilance” against the virus this morning, in light of the new strain.

In a meeting with ministers, he said the new strain “shows the complexity of the virus, how aggressive it is - dare I say - how inventive it is, and the humility that we must have”. 

Travel suspended to limit exposure

The new strain of the virus, called VUI 202012/01, propagates quickly and is thought to have emerged in mid-September in the UK in either London or Kent.

Increased instances of this variant of Covid-19 have seen the UK government impose strict 'tier 4' measures in London and the south-east days before Christmas. And yesterday the French government suspended all travel with the UK for 48 hours in a bid to prevent the strain spreading into France.  

Mr Véran said of this decision: “Scientists in England are asking if this strain of the virus is more contagious than others. Since they have been asking this question, we are talking all necessary precautions [to avoid the strain spreading to France].”

Belgium, Germany, and Holland have also closed their borders to UK travel.

Related stories 

EU leaders discuss UK Covid-19 travel ban

No exemption on EU Covid travel restrictions for UK

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