As new variants unfold in France, some need a Third lockdown

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As new variants spread in France, some want a 3rd lockdown

This Thursday, January 21, 2021, nurse Coralie Ferron is preparing doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Le Cannet, southern France. France's highest health agency, the High Authority of Health (HAS), recommended on Friday February 12, 2021 that people with COVID-19 receive only one dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus. Since rested individuals had developed an immune response that was similar to a vaccine, a single shot is likely enough. (AP Photo / Daniel Cole, File)

New variants of the virus are spreading rapidly in several regions of France, leading local authorities to order stricter mask rules and a curfew on the English Channel coast, sparking growing calls for a new lockdown in the east.

Although France closed its borders with the UK in December, the virus variant first identified in Kent, England, is responsible for a large majority of recent virus cases in the French port city of Dunkirk, according to a statement by the regional health department on Saturday.

The regional administration ordered stricter mask rules and urged people in Dunkirk and some other areas not to leave the city to limit the spread. The city's saturated hospitals are sending COVID-19 patients to other regions as the number of those in need of intensive care increases.

France's national health agency warned Thursday that the spread variants could worsen the country's virus situation in the coming weeks after a lengthy period of stable infections and hospital stays since the last lockdown was lifted in December.

The variant that dominates in Great Britain, according to the latest data from the agency, was found in almost a quarter of all cases in northern France and in 20% of cases in the Paris region at the end of January.

Figures released on Friday by France's largest network of private medical laboratories, the Biogroup, suggest the variant has already spread rapidly since then: the group says the variant used about half of their tests from 1 to Has appeared on February 7 in the West Paris region.

The bio-group also found a jump in cases of the variant first identified in South Africa in three regions of eastern France. In the Moselle region, the variant was found in almost a third of the positive tests in the first week of February, the bio group said.

Health Minister Olivier Veran traveled to the region on Friday promising increased testing and vaccinations, but the government has resisted calls by some local doctors and leaders for a new lockdown.

In total, France has confirmed more than 3.4 million coronavirus cases and more than 80,000 virus-related deaths. Frustration with the government's handling of the pandemic has increased.

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