Known to be more contagious, it could boost the circulation of the virus if it were to spread. The Covid-19 variant discovered in the United Kingdom has been found in France, health authorities report on Friday.
The discovery of this VOC 202012/01 of SARS-CoV-2 took place in Tours (Indre-et-Loire). “This is a man of French nationality residing in England,” describes the Directorate General of Health in a press release. He was detected positive for Covid-19 two days after his return from London on December 19. He has since been placed in solitary confinement.
Tests have just confirmed that he was an asymptomatic carrier of the dreaded strain. The health authorities have already carried out contact-tracing of health professionals who worked with him and looked for his contact cases.
“To date, several positive samples can suggest the variant […] are being sequenced by the laboratories of the National Reference Center, ”the press release added.
This strain would contain a mutation in the protein of the “spike” of the coronavirus, called N501Y, which allows it to attach to human cells to penetrate them. This small transformation is suspected to be at the origin of the surge in cases observed in the south of England in recent weeks.
Last Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated that this mutated form was transmitted “much more easily” than other variants of the coronavirus, arguing that it would be “up to 70% more contagious”. Its Minister of Health, Matt Hancock, later said that the new variant was “out of control”. If it is more contagious, however, nothing shows at this stage that this variant causes more serious forms. Information which, however, pushed many countries, including France, to limit or stop trade with Great Britain.
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Protective measures have also been taken to limit the introduction of new variants on national territory and to identify them as soon as possible, like the sequencing carried out on the results of the patient from Tours. The same procedure has been put in place for people returning from South Africa, where another variant of SARS-CoV-2 is currently circulating actively.
Monday, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran admitted that it was “possible” that the variant is already circulating in France. A similar case has been reported in Germany, in a woman arriving by plane from London, and in Lebanon, also in a London passenger.