New COVID variant spreading fast in France

A man wearing a protective face mask walks at Trocadero square near the Eiffel Tower in Paris amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in France

New coronavirus variants are spreading fast in multiple regions of France, prompting tougher mask rules and a curfew crackdown around the English Channel coast.

The variant dominant in Britain is now responsible for a large majority of recent virus cases around the French port city of Dunkirk, according to a statement Saturday from the regional health agency.

The regional administration ordered tougher mask rules and urged people in Dunkirk and some other areas not to leave town to limit the spread. The city’s saturated hospitals are sending virus patients to other regions amid a spike in the number of people needing intensive care.

Figures released Friday by France’s largest network of private medical labs, Biogroup, indicate the variant has spread significantly. The group says the variant showed up in about half of its tests in the western Paris region Feb. 1-7.

France has registered more than 80,000 deaths and 3.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases.

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