Covid 19 in France: Latest official figures and symptoms of new variant

Hospitalisations are increasing amid rising cases of the new ‘FLiRT’ variant

A runny nose is one of the symptoms to be alert to as Covid cases continue to rise

Cases of Covid-19 have been rising in France over the month of May, as a new variant - improbably nicknamed ‘FLiRT’ - has become the dominant strain worldwide.

The latest figures from Santé publique France (SPF, released on May 28) show a rise in hospitalisations due to Covid. 

From May 20-26, emergency admissions and hospitalisations for suspected Covid-19 continued to rise “for the sixth week running” SPF said, with 575 compared with 427 the previous week. This represents an increase of 35% across all age groups. However, levels remain at a lower level than in previous years.

Read also: Covid-19 in France latest stats: Hospital visits show small rise

It comes as a new Covid variant - scientific name KP.2, nicknamed ‘Flirt’ or FliRT - is now dominant globally, especially in the United States and Australia. This strain emerged from the JN.1 subvariant, and other strains in the same ‘family’ include KP.3 and KW.1.1.

What is the FLiRT variant?

The unusual name - which is a break from previous Greek names for variants such as Delta or Omicron - was coined by Dr T. Ryan Gregory, PhD, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.

It comes from the names for the variants’ spike protein or amino acid mutations.

Writing on X (Twitter), Dr Gregory said: “Each amino acid has its own letter abbreviation. FLiRT is F456L + R346T, or phenylalanine (F) to leucine (L) at position 456 and arginine (R) to threonine (T) at position 346.”

Symptom watch 

And while the Institut Pasteur in France has said that “30-60% who carry the virus, especially young people, are asymptomatic,” people are still warned to remain alert to the symptoms of Covid in general, the Assurance maladie said.

The symptoms - of all/any variants - typically include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of smell and/or taste
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Feeling of pressure in the lungs/chest
  • Breathing difficulties in severe cases
  • Diarrhoea

Vulnerable people - including the very young, elderly, pregnant; those with long-term conditions, or the immunocompromised - are warned to remain especially alert and to consult a doctor as soon as possible in case of symptoms. 

In an emergency - such as feeling unable to breathe, or to catch your breath while speaking - call 15 (or 114 for the hard-of-hearing). 

Those with symptoms are also reminded to practise physical distancing, to avoid contact with vulnerable people, to wash hands regularly, and to wear a mask in enclosed spaces.

Vaccination campaign

People are also reminded to keep Covid vaccinations and boosters up to date, as vaccination is still the best protection against infection and severe illness.

A new vaccination campaign is currently underway in France, and is set to end on June 16 - although it may be extended to July 15, the Ministry of Health has said.