France confirms first case of coronavirus variant

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France, Police, Mask, Coronavirus
French police officers secure the bridge leading to the Eiffel Tower

French health authorities have confirmed the country’s first case of the virus variant that prompted strict new lockdown measures in Britain and global travel restrictions.

A French man living in England arrived in France on December 19 and tested positive for the new variant on Friday, the French public health agency said. He had no symptoms and was isolating in his home in the central city of Tours.

Authorities were tracing the person’s contacts and laboratories were analysing tests from several other people who may have the new variant, the statement said.

Some other European countries have also reported cases of the new variant, which British authorities said appears more contagious and was spreading fast.

Health authorities in the Madrid region of Spain said they had confirmed the variant in four people, all of whom are in good health. Regional health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero said the new strain had arrived when an infected person flew into Madrid’s airport.

The British announcement on December 19 prompted countries around the world to suspend flights from the UK, and France banned all passengers and cargo from Britain for two days, causing massive traffic problems around the Port of Dover.

France reopened the border but now requires anyone entering from Britain to have a test showing they do not have the new variant.

A second partial lockdown sharply curbed France’s infections, but they have been again on the rise over the past two weeks. France has among the world’s highest virus death tolls.

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