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PARIS, November 28 (Reuters) – France’s health ministry said on Sunday it had detected eight possible cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant across the country after the government announced it would tighten restrictions to contain its spread.

Omicron is potentially more contagious than previous variants, although experts are not yet sure whether it will cause COVID-19 to be more or less severe compared to other strains.

“They are considered potentially contaminated with the Omicron variant having been in southern Africa for the past 14 days,” the health ministry said in a statement.

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He said further tests were underway to fully confirm it was Omicron, but the people and those they had come in contact with were now in isolation.

France is in the middle of a fifth wave of the virus. It recorded more than 31,600 positive cases of COVID-19 on Sunday after seeing a sharp increase in the number of intensive care patients the day before.

Health Minister Olivier Veran previously told reporters at a vaccination center in Paris that the government would do everything possible to contain the spread of the new variant.

He said that any contact that a person at risk of a possible case or a confirmed case of the Omicron variant, even vaccinated, should now isolate. These people should be considered “high risk” and quarantined.

Until now, contact cases of an infected person had to be isolated only when they were not fully vaccinated or when they had a weakened immune system.

France has also suspended all flights from southern Africa until at least December 1 and has strengthened protocols for people arriving from its neighboring overseas territories of Reunion Island and Mayotte, the French said. ministry.

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Reporting by John Irish, editing by Louise Heavens and Diane Craft

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