Tue, 18 May 2021

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

Experts say the Brazilian variant, known as P1, is particularly virulent and partly to blame for a sharp increase in the country's coronavirus death toll in March.

"We have observed that the situation is worsening and that is why we have decided to suspend all flights between Brazil and France until further notice," Castex told parliament.

The prime minister noted that travellers from Brazil already needed to test negative for Covid-19 before their departure and upon arrival in France, and also quarantine for 10 days. But the government has also been facing mounting calls from health experts for a flight suspension to further limit potential spread.

A month ago, Health Minister Olivier Veran said that around 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 coronavirus cases 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 another wave of coronavirus infections and hospitalisations that is straining hospitals in Paris and elsewhere.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has defied expert advice on containing the pandemic, criticising lockdowns, face masks and vaccines, but he faces mounting pressure to bring the situation under control amid a brutal new surge of the virus.

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

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

Originally published on France24

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