UPDATE – British coronavirus variant rising steadily in France

France may soon announce new restrictions as coronavirus infections continue to rise steadily due to the circulation of a British variant that has left current measures ineffective, the French health minister said Thursday.

Olivier Veran said at a news conference that new variants of the virus, particularly the British variant, are actively circulating in France.

He said the variant constituted 3.2% of total positive cases at the beginning of January but that figure has increased to about one in 10 of all cases.

"From 500 cases then, we are today at more than 2,000 cases daily," he said, adding that variants are the worrying parameter as they "are more contagious."

The latest figures by the end of Thursday evening show that the number of positive infections has reached a record high of 26,916 new cases with 350 deaths.

Veran insisted that an advanced curfew imposed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., (1500GMT to 0500GMT) had had a real effect but not strong enough to curtail the rollback of the variant, raising the possibility of wider lockdown measures.

Evoking the spirit of solidarity and responsibility shown by the French in the last year in the face of lockdowns and the psychological effect on the country, he urged the nation to hold on for a little longer.

French politicians reportedly are wary of a third lockdown, which is a scenario in the cards of the Macron administration, as it could spark civil protests and disobedience seen recently in the Netherlands.

Veran provided no details about another lockdown but said announcements would be made in the coming days.

He said that although France is not in an epidemic wave, "the virus is circulating at a high level and circulating a little faster each week."

This was resulting in tension at hospitals as almost 60% of the occupancy was filled by coronavirus patients.

Hospitals also have "more serious patients than patients who recover," he said.

Later in the day, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that if authorities decide in favor of a third lockdown, lawmakers in the National Assembly and Senate next week would debate and vote on the matter, broadcaster BFM TV reported.

The government is consulting with various stakeholders for stricter measures before announcing its decision, the report added.

Source: Anadolu Agency