Two clusters of the coronavirus variant first discovered in the UK have been detected in France, the Health Ministry said on Thursday. The discovery comes as Prime Minister Jean Castex announced an extension of border closures between the UK and France. 

A total of 19 cases of the variant have been identified in the country, including one cluster in the central French region of Ile-de-France, and the other in Brittany, west of the country, the ministry said in a statement.

The border between Britain and France will remain closed “until further notice,” with only specific categories of people able to travel — provided they meet a negative coronavirus test before entering the country — Castex said in a press conference.

“We are now a little above 15,000 new daily cases, or three times more than the target of 5,000,” Castex said. The rise in infections is getting worse than it was in mid-December, he warned.

On December 20, France closed its border with Britain after a new Covid-19 variant was found in the UK. Two days later, Castex said French citizens, residents and those with a “legitimate reason” can enter as long as they can show proof of a negative Covid-19 test.

Coronavirus has claimed the lives of 66,841 people in France, according to the latest figures released by the Health Authority on Thursday. A total of 2,727,321 people have been infected by the virus since the start of the pandemic.

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