Paris: France has announced its first confirmed cases of the virus variant that is sweeping over India, just as the French president outlined a national reopening plan after six months of virus restrictions.
The Health Ministry announced late Thursday night that three people tested positive for the new variant in the Bouches-du-Rhone and Lot et Garonne regions of southern France. All three had travelled to India, and are under medical observation.
Authorities are seeking to trace their contacts and investigating other suspected cases, the ministry said. It noted that the variant has been detected in at least six other European countries.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran told France info radio on Friday that it was still unclear if available COVID-19 vaccines were effective against the Indian variant, and he added that the danger of this variant must not be underestimated.
France last week stepped up virus controls for travellers arriving from India as well as some other countries where variants are spreading.
The announcement came as French President Emmanuel Macron laid out a four-stage reopening process aimed at boosting the economy, welcoming back tourists and lifting nearly all of France's virus restrictions by June 30.
The vast majority of France's virus cases now involve the more contagious, more dangerous variant first identified in Britain. France has reported more than 103,000 coronavirus deaths.