French Prime Minister announces suspension of all flights to, from Brazil over coronavirus variant concerns

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Today, in the French National Assembly, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced all flights to and from Brazil are to be suspended for concerns of Lineage P.1, a contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus which reportedly originated in Brazil.

File photo of Jean Castex.
Image: Florian DAVID.

Castex's announcement was met with "scattered applause", according to the Associated Press (AP). In his announcement, Castex said, "the situation is getting worse and so we have decided to suspend all flights between Brazil and France until further notice". While a report from RT TV said the data from March 16 indicates Lineage P.1 represents 0.5% of all COVID-19 cases in France. Opposition politicians have urged the French government to take preventative measures. Member of the Socialist Party Boris Vallaud said this suspension was "necessary and a very good decision".

Lineage P.1 spreads faster between young people, according to the observations made by the Brazilian health institute Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. The Foundation also said cases in Brazilians in 30s, 40s and 50s increased 565, 626 and 525% respectively, since the beginning of January, and an increase in the overall population of 316%. It is also more transmissible by as much as 2.2 times, and 25–61% more able to reinfect those infected with another strain earlier. According to RT TV, the Brazilian variant has two distinct mutations: N501Y, which increases transmissibility and E484K, which reduces vaccine efficacy and natural immunity from past infection of another strain.

France is currently in its third wave of coronavirus infections, with a report from AP stating over 99 thousand COVID-19 related deaths and The Brussels Times reporting over 5900 treated in intensive care units as of yesterday, the most since seen in mid-April last year. The report also stated this figure is likely to rise. There have been 41-60 thousand positive tests of the coronavirus over Easter weekend. AP said there are at least 5.1 million cases in France in total, the highest in Europe. Seven per cent of the population has been fully inoculated against COVID-19, and 21% have received the first dose, The Brussels Times reported. "Restrictive measures", including on travel, movement and in-school education has been imposed nationwide since April 3, and a curfew of 7 pm–6 am is under effect in metropolitan France.

Though the variants originating in Brazil and South Africa account for under four per cent of infections in France, the variant Lineage B.1.1.7, which originated in the United Kingdom accounts for around 80% of the infections, Minister of Solidarity and Health Olivier Véran said. Véran said, "we are seeing a retreat of these variants because they are less contagious than the English one".

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