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New French Coronavirus Variant Appears To Bypass Standard Tests

The strain is in the WHO’s ‘variant under investigation’ category.

PARIS — French authorities are warning of a new coronavirus variant in the northwestern region of Brittany that escapes detection by standard PCR tests.

While harder to detect, the “initial analyses of this new variant doesn’t suggest either increased severity or increased transmissibility,” the health ministry said in statement late Monday.

The World Health Organization has placed this new strain in its category of “variant under investigation” due to its bypassing PCR tests. This category includes most of the thousands of variants that occur naturally — of which only a small proportion will pose public health problems — as opposed to the “variant of concern” category, which includes strains found in Brazil, the U.K. and South Africa.

An in-depth investigation is underway in Brittany, after eight cases were identified as carriers of the variant from sequencing in a cluster of 79 cases in the town of Lannion.

The announcement came as France battles a resurgence in coronavirus cases, with President Emmanuel Macron warning that new lockdown measures could come in coming days.


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