French authorities are rushing to contain the most infectious variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the UK, which has now been detected in the port of Marseille and in the Alps.
Marseille mayor Benoit Payan said seven to eight people had tested positive for the new variant in the city, while tests were underway on 30 other people who may also have been exposed to it.
“Right now every minute counts to prevent the spread of this English variant,” Payan told reporters.
The local health authority for the Hautes-Alpes region, home to many ski resorts that attract British visitors, said the variant was found there as well.
France has the seventh highest death toll from COVID-19 in the world. Deaths have increased by 151 in the past 24 hours to a total of 67,750, while the number of new confirmed cases has increased by 15,944 to around 2.78 million.
The variant, first found in England late last year, has been accused of an increase in the number of cases threatening to invade UK hospitals over the past month.
In response to the discovery of the variant in Marseille, the city moved the start time of an evening curfew two hours earlier to 6 p.m.
In Paris, the curfew hours from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. remain unchanged for the moment.
The government of President Emmanuel Macron has said it will not rule out stricter measures if the COVID-19 situation worsens in France.
Macron is working to speed up the deployment of vaccines in the country. France had delivered only 7,000 vaccines over a week after the launch of its vaccination campaign on December 27. The government has announced that a vaccine manufactured by Moderna will arrive in France this week.
Australian Associated Press