The regional health authority of Île-de-France released a statement on Thursday morning noting the first confirmed case – a resident of the Seine-et-Marne département in greater Paris who tested positive after arriving in France from Nigeria.
By Friday morning nine cases had been confirmed, in the île-de-France, Haut-Rhin and Vendée regions, all linked to travel from Africa.
Health minister Olivier Véran said on Friday that the variant had “probably been circulating for some weeks” in France and warned to expect more confirmed cases.
The Omicron variant, which had first been detected on the French overseas territory of La Réunion, in the Indian Ocean, has been described by the World Health Organisation as a “variant of concern”.
It has been recorded in multiple European countries including Switzerland, Belgium and the UK since scientists in South Africa first reported the emergence of a new variant.
The WHO says that the variant is of ‘high risk’ because of its apparent transmissibility and because it may be able to resist immunity from previous infections and vaccinations, although it is not yet clear whether it makes people any more seriously ill than other strains of Covid.
France has recently updated its travel rules for people from outside the EU, in part to prevent the Omicron from arriving on its shores.