PARIS (NewsNationNow) — There will be no more direct flights between France and Brazil as the hardest-hit European nation tries to prevent the spread of the coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the decision Tuesday to parliament: “We take note that the situation is getting worse and we have decided to suspend all flights between France and Brazil until further notice.”
Last month, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said that around 6% of COVID-19 cases in France were from the more contagious variants first found in Brazil and South Africa. In the weeks since Veran’s statement, leading French doctors have called on the government to stop all air traffic with Brazil.
Castex noted Tuesday that travelers coming in from Brazil already needed to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the country, then quarantine for 10 days once on French soil.
The prime minister’s office said the suspension would start Wednesday, and concerns flights from Brazil to France. National carrier Air France cancelled all its flights both to and from Brazil on Wednesday and said its flight schedule beyond that would depend on government instructions.
Travel between the two countries had already been drastically reduced since before the pandemic. In 2019, around 50,000 people flew into Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport each week. Now, that number has dropped to around 50 people per day.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran told parliament that a variant that first swept through Britain before spreading to continental Europe is now responsible for about 80% of infections in France and that the variants first seen in Brazil and South Africa make up less than 4% of French infections.
“Proportionally, we are seeing a retreat of these variants because they are less contagious than the English one,” Veran said.
France has reported 5.1 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, the largest total in Europe, and has seen more than 99,000 people die in the pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.