France suspends flights with Brazil ‘until further notice’ amid Covid variant concern

The French prime minister has announced the suspension of all flights to and from Brazil indefinitely amid concerns about the proliferation of the Brazilian Covid variant and returning travelers spreading the strain.

Speaking on Tuesday to the National Assembly, Prime Minister Jean Castex admitted the proliferation of the Brazilian variant in France was concerning and the situation was deteriorating. In response to this, Castex confirmed that the government would indefinitely suspend all flights between the two nations.

“We note that the situation is worsening, and we have decided to suspend all flights between Brazil and France until further notice,” the PM said. According to data from March 16, the Brazilian variant only represented 0.5% of all cases in France, less than the South African strain and much less than the British strain. 

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Earlier in the day, opposition politicians had called on the government to act now before the variant spread even further in France.While the Brazilian ‘P1’ variant still represents a minority of the Covid infections in France, it is considered more contagious and deadly than the original coronavirus strain. The variant, which is behind the escalating Covid crisis in Brazil, carries two major mutations. Mutation N501Y makes the virus more transmissible, like the British variant, while the E484K apparently reduces the efficacy of vaccines and immunity gained through previous infection.

France’s Covid outbreak has continued to worsen in recent weeks amid the proliferation of new variants and a lagging vaccine rollout program. This week saw a new record high so far this year for the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units in France.

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