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France immediately suspends arrivals from seven southern African countries, including South Africa, due to “the discovery of a new variant of the particularly worrying coronavirus,” Matignon announced on Friday.

This measure, applied “for a minimum period of 48 hours”, also concerns travelers from Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini. “People who have traveled during the last fourteen days in one of these countries are invited to report to the authorities and to carry out an RT-PCR screening test as soon as possible”, adds Matignon.

In addition, the government, which invokes the “principle of maximum precaution”, “calls on travelers who had planned to go to these countries to suspend their trip.”

Scientists worried about high spread potential

While traveling to Brest, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran indicated that this new South African variant “has not been diagnosed in Europe to date”. “And we do not want to be led to diagnose (it) on national and European territory, if only as long as we do not know more about its dangerousness”, he stressed. He recalled that France carries out “thousands of sequencing per week”, and Europe “tens of thousands”, to know the prevalence of the Delta variant and that of possible variants.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal had declared earlier on BFMTV and RMC that it was the Delta variant which was “today almost exclusively in circulation” on French territory.

In recent hours, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom have adopted similar restrictions in the face of the threat posed by the B.1.1.529 variant, whose high spread potential is of particular concern to scientists.

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22 cases reported in South Africa

“Beyond these first protective measures, discussions will be conducted in the coming hours with our European partners in order to determine a common and coherent framework at the level of the European Union”, further underlined the services of the Prime Minister.

So far, 22 cases have been reported in South Africa, mostly affecting young people, according to local health authorities. Cases have also been reported in neighboring Botswana and Hong Kong, on a person returning from a trip to South Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is meeting this Friday to try to assess the dangerousness of this new variant, observing that it would take “several weeks” to understand it.

letelegramme Fr Trans

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