France competes to contain a new Covid-19 variant, accelerating the rollout of the vaccine

French authorities said on Sunday that they were competing to contain the more contagious variant of Covid-19 first found in Britain, which has now been discovered in France’s Mediterranean port of Marseille and in the Alps.

Marseille Mayor Benoit Payan said seven to eight people had tested positive for the new variant in the city, while tests are underway on 30 others who may also have been exposed to it.

“Right now, every minute counts in terms of preventing the spread of this English variant,” Payan told reporters.

The local health authority in the Hautes-Alpes region, where many ski resorts attract British visitors, said the variant had also been discovered there.

France has the seventh largest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world. The number of deaths increased by 151 in the last 24 hours and reached a total of 67,750, while the number of newly confirmed cases increased by 15,944 and amounted to approximately 2.78 million.

The variant, which was first found in England at the end of last year, has been blamed by the British government for a sharp increase in cases threatening to exceed hospitals in the UK.

Following the discovery of the Marseille variant, French authorities added the city and its environs to a list of French departments where curfews begin at 6 p.m., two hours before the rest of the country.

Strasbourg and Dijon also have longer curfews, while curfews begin at 8pm in Paris and most other departments.

France would reverse Covid-19 curfew in several regions when the British variant was discovered around Marseille

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has said it will not rule out tougher measures if the situation in Covid-19 deteriorates in France.

The government is climbing to accelerate the country’s vaccine expansion, which has been paralyzed by politicians across the board.

France had delivered just 7,000 shots more than a week after launching its vaccination campaign on December 27 and was far behind most Western countries.

The government said a second vaccine, manufactured by the US company Moderna, would arrive in France on Monday.

Opinion polls show that about half of the French population is skeptical of having a jab – their opposition is particularly high than in neighboring countries.

( Jowharwith REUTERS)