The French Ministry of Health said the man arrived in France from London on December 19 and was asymptomatic.
French health authorities have confirmed the country’s first case of the coronavirus variant which has resulted in strict lockdowns in the UK and global travel restrictions.
The French Ministry of Health said a Frenchman who arrived in France from the British capital London on December 19 tested positive for the new variant on Friday.
He had no symptoms and was isolated at his home in the central city of Tours.
Authorities have conducted contact tracing for healthcare professionals caring for the patient, the ministry said. All their contacts considered vulnerable would also be isolated, he said.
In addition to this first case, several other positive samples which “could suggest the VOC 202012/01 variant are being sequenced” by the specialized laboratories of the National Pasteur Institute, the statement added.
Italian authorities have detected the new strain in a patient in Rome, while the World Health Organization has reported that nine cases have been detected in Denmark and one each in the Netherlands and Australia.
Following the quick 48-hour ban this week, France had reopened its borders with the UK – in part to allow French citizens to return home, as well as to alleviate the massive build-up of freight cargo – but had instituted a testing policy.
France’s Home Office said Thursday that limits on travel from the UK would continue “until at least January 6”.
For now, only French or EU citizens, those with a right to stay or business travelers are allowed to cross from the UK – if they can show a negative COVID-19 test of less than three days.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on December 14 that a spike in COVID cases in the UK could have been linked to the new variant of the virus in the country. Scientists say the new strain may be up to 70% more transmissible.
Hancock said more than 1,000 cases of the new variant have been identified, mostly in the south-east of England. Before Christmas, the Minister of Health had announced the extension of strict lockdown measures in other parts of southern England to contain the spread of the disease.
With more than 68,000 deaths from the virus, the UK is one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.
Countries around the world have in recent days closed their borders to the United Kingdom and South Africa following the identification of cases of the new, rapidly spreading variant of the coronavirus in those countries.
France, meanwhile, has recorded 20,262 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 159 more deaths in hospitals in the past 24 hours.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in France now stands at 2,547,771, while the number of COVID-19 deaths has reached 62,427 – the seventh highest in the world.