A new coronavirus variant ‘Breton’ is raising concerns in France as it is not detected by regular PCR-tests, health officials told in a press conference on Tuesday.
France reports new ‘Breton variant’ of Coronavirus
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests are carried out to find the presence of an antigen rather than the body’s immune response, or antibodies.
According to the French Ministry of Health, the new variant reported to the World Health Organisation detected through a cluster of cases in a hospital in the regional town of Lannion, Brittany. It added that the PCR tests could not detect the virus.
“It was detected in the context of a cluster at the hospital in Lannion, in Côtes-d’Armor. On March 13th, 79 cases were identified, including 8 cases carrying the variant, confirmed by sequencing”, the DGS told in a statement.
The DGS continued and said that the Breton variant is not easily infectious, or causes more serious symptoms than Covid, but “in-depth investigations are underway to better understand this variant and its impact”.
The country has reported more than 4 million coronavirus cases since the novel coronavirus first spread in December 2019 in China. The number of people in intensive care units (ICU) who contracted COVID-19 had increased on Monday to 4,219. This was the highest number since late November.
On Tuesday, interfederal Covid-19 spokesperson Steven Van Gucht clarified that they have not established this variant on Belgian territory. He said it is normal that new variants appear “as part of the virus’ natural evolution” just like the British and South-African variants.
Van Gucht stressed that Belgium is thoroughly following the Breton variant reports. This is particularly because of the concerns that tests are failing to show up on the variant.
The French government has opposed another lockdown in the face of emerging cases. The daily infections there appear to go above the 20,000-mark.
Its striving vaccination campaign suffered a new hindrance on Monday. Since France followed other European countries in suspending the use of AstraZeneca vaccines because of concerns over blood clotting incidents.