Should we expect an English Covid-19 variant epidemic in Île-de-France? The situation grows worrying every time a case has been identified and scientists are trying to understand how this virus variant could contaminate people who did not leave France for a while.
In Bagneux, Hauts-de-Seine, it is time to mass test people. An after-school activity leader has tested positive to the English variant. Since then, the city organized an improvised testing over several days. Over 2,000 people have been tested. We have to wait for the end of the week to know if the English virus spread across the city.
People are also worried in neighboring cities: Fontenay-aux-Roses – a 25,000-inhabitant city – is testing people this January 13, including extra analysis to try and find the English variant. In Montrouge, the opposition also asks to test people the same way.
As of January 13, the Île-de-France regional health agency (ARS) confirms six people have caught the English coronavirus variant. There are 43 of them in France. Furthermore, 52 other cases are waiting for confirmation: these tests have been carried out on people who tested positive for Covid-19 and who had a direct contact with the United Kingdom.
Detecting the mutation of the virus is no easy task: testing centers need to use machines such as Thermo-Fischer, that can find the mutation of a protein. To confirm the result, they then have to send the sample to national reference centers such as the Institut Pasteur in Paris or Lyon. There, they sequence the sample, a process requiring several days to complete.
The threat of this variant is taken very seriously: from now on, the ARS supervises “contact tracing” operations in the event of contamination with the English virus. The Ile-de-France agency tells Le Parisien “possible or likely cases are now immediately considered as confirmed cases until there is no longer doubt with sequencing”.
To make testing easier, the ARS fitted the 21 centers in Île-de-France with Thermo-Fischer machines. Furthermore, all positive tests found in airports arriving in France are now taken up a notch with Themo-Fischer analysis, in order to find and isolate cases as quickly as possible.
Therefore, this mutation – first found in England – has traveled borders. Biogroup biologist Laurent Kbaier explains Le Parisien that “among the  suspected cases [found in Île-de-France], 41 of them did not travel, 48 of them were asymptomatic, four are back from Dubai, and five from Lebanon”. Almost half people infected are under 30 years old: 29 in 74. “Given the previous results, we think the proportion of cases confirmed by sequencing could be included between 50 and 75%” the biologist adds.
Is Île-de-France turning into an English virus cluster? If English variant contaminations grow too quickly, the government might have to make severe measures. The region might be placed into lockdown or quarantined to avoid interregional trips from spreading the virus over the country.