France sees about 2,000 cases of COVID-19 variant first identified in UK

France has detected about 2,000 cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variant first identified in Britain, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday.

Veran told the France Inter radio that the new strain accounts for 1.4 percent of new cases confirmed in France, or 200-300 infections per day.

“There are probably 2,000 cases in total,” he said.

“When a virus is more aggressive and more contagious, it can become dominant quite quickly,” the minister added.

In a report published on Monday, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) said it expected the COVID-19 new strain (VOC) would become dominant at home between late February and mid-March, depending on the epidemic evolution.

“These results support the need for strengthened social distancing measures and for accelerating the vaccination campaign to face the threat of the VOC variant,” it said.

The first case of the virus variant in France was spotted on Dec. 26, 2020, prompting the country to impose travel restriction and to keep border with the United Kingdom closed.

France on Monday reported 403 new COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, the most since Nov. 24 last year, raising the country’s coronavirus-related fatalities to 70,686, according to the health authorities.

The cumulative number of infections was 2,914,725, while 25,619 COVID-19 patients were being treated in hospitals across the country, including 2,813 on ventilators.