Despite the detection of five clusters, the Minister of Health says the tension “ is not spreading quickly ” and is continuing the plan to reopen.
The variant coronavirus first detected in India appears to be on the rise in France, which has now recorded at least 20 cases, according to the country’s health minister.
On Monday, Olivier Veran told French news channel LCI that those affected had been identified in five small groups, local media. reported.
Veran did not say where the cases were recorded, but said the variant, officially known as B.1.617, “is not spreading quickly” in the country.
France first detected a handful of instances of the variant at the end of last month.
Veran’s comments came as concerns grew about the B.1.617 strain being linked to a devastating wave of infections in India.
It has since spread to around 20 other countries, including several European countries, resulting in further travel restrictions with India.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has described B.1.617 as a “variant of interest”, suggesting that it might have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, cause more serious disease, or escape the virus. vaccine immunity.
Other strains with known risks, such as those first detected in the UK, Brazil and South Africa, have been classified as ‘variants of concern’ – a higher level of threat.
B.1.617 contains two notable mutations – officially called E484Q and L452R.
This has led to her being sometimes referred to as the ‘double mutant’ strain, although this is something of a misnomer as she actually carries over a dozen mutations in total.
France began its third national lockdown at the end of March, but has faced pressure from businesses and a public tired of COVID.
Despite the increase in cases, Veran has confirmed that France will continue with plans to reopen bars and restaurants for outdoor service on May 19, as the third wave of the pandemic appears to be easing.
Authorities will also begin to ease a nighttime curfew.
“The outlook looks pretty good but we must not let our guard down,” Veran told LCI television.
The measures come as France tries to speed up its mass vaccination program after a slow start.
As of Sunday, 17.8 million people had received at least one dose of the vaccine, or 26.6% of the total population, the health ministry said. Some 7.8 million people had been completely inoculated with two doses.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 patients in French intensive care units fell below 5,000 for the first time since March 29 on Sunday, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
The number was down for a sixth day in a row to 4,971, from 5,005 the day before, the health ministry said. The health ministry also said a total of 106,392 people had died from COVID-19 on Sunday, in increase of 115.
The number of new infections rose by 9,128 from 9,888 a week earlier, bringing the total to 5.78 million.