France records first case of new Covid-19 variant

26 December 2020, 10:45 | Updated: 26 December 2020, 14:16

The new Covid strain has been found in France
The new Covid strain has been found in France. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

France has reported its first confirmed case of the new coronavirus variant first discovered in the UK.

The French citizen who was found to have the virus lives in England and had left London for France on 19 December.

He is currently self-isolating at home and is said to be doing fine, the country's health ministry has said.

The new variant, named VUI-202012/01, has worried experts and global leaders as it is thought to be up to 70% more transmissible.

The variant was first identified in south east England, and has led to countries across the world closing their borders to the UK in a bid to prevent it from reaching their citizens.

Spain has also confirmed four cases of the more contagious variant and the infections - all in Madrid - were linked to recent UK travel, the regional deputy health chief said.

Denmark, the Netherlands and Italy have also reported cases in the past few days.

France imposed some of the strictest travel restrictions on UK travellers, and the borders closing has meant thousands of hauliers could not cross the Channel in the run-up to Christmas.

After the border reopened on Wednesday, more than 700 hauliers have been cleared for departure, with drivers beeping their horns on Christmas Eve in celebration of the decision.

However, around 5,000 international drivers are still unable to get home despite progress being made in testing efforts at Manston Airport - where drivers are holed up in their cabins - on a closed section of the M20, and in Dover itself.

Some hauliers have spent nearly a week stranded with their lorries due to the chaos at the border.Southeastern Railway and Network Rail have arranged for food to be delivered to those stuck as part of Operation Brock on the motorway.

Seven trains carrying crates of food for the hauliers have left London in the past 48 hours, with the Salvation Army distributing the items.

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The new variant is said to have reached France before the travel ban was imposed however.

French health minister Olivier Veran said earlier this week that it was "entirely possible" the new variant was already circulating in the country, despite officials having found no evidence at the time.

Cases of the new variant have also been confirmed in Denmark, Italy, Gibraltar, the Netherlands and Australia.

There is no evidence so far that the new variant causes more serious illness or is able to evade vaccines, although it does spread faster.