France cancels all Brazil flights over fears of Covid-19 variant

France is suspending all flights to and from Brazil to limit the spread of a new Covid-19 variant found in the South American country, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Tuesday.

Experts say that the Brazilian variant, known as P1, is particularly virulent and partly due to a sharp increase in the country’s death toll from coronavirus in March.

“We have observed that the situation is deteriorating and that is why we have decided to suspend all flights between Brazil and France for the time being,” Castex told parliament.

The Prime Minister noted that travelers from Brazil already needed to test negative for Covid-19 before their departure and on arrival in France, and also quarantined for 10 days. But the government has also faced increasing demands from health experts for a flight delay to further limit potential spread.

One month ago, Health Minister Olivier Véran said that about 6 percent of Covid-19 cases in France were from the more contagious variants first found in Brazil and South Africa.

France has had 5.1 million cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began, the highest number in Europe, and has seen more than 99,000 people die in the pandemic. The country is struggling with a new wave of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations affecting hospitals in Paris and elsewhere.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has defied expert advice on holding the pandemic, criticizing locks, face masks and vaccines, but he is facing increasing pressure to get the situation under control in the midst of a brutal new wave of the virus.

Brazil’s death toll in Covid-19 is the highest in the world after the United States and India.

( Jowharwith AFP, AP and REUTERS)