As the world is continuing the fight against the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis which has infected over 80 million people and killed nearly 1.8 million, the detection of a new variant of the virus in the United Kingdom (UK) has further aggravated the situation and the new variant has been reported in eight European nations, Japan, Australia etc.
Reported first by the authorities in the UK in mid-December, the new variant (B-117) is found to be more 70 per cent transmissible with the World Health Organization (WHO) adding that it is spreading among the young population. WHO is continuing to monitor the situation and it is crucial to strengthen the existing protocol measures social distancing, wearing masks and staying in core support bubbles, the organisation’s Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said.
Here are the latest developments on the new Covid-19 variant:
1. Health authorities in France confirmed the first case of the new variant detected in the UK. The public health agency said in a statement that a French man had arrived in France from England on December 19 and tested positive for the variant on Friday. He currently has no symptoms and is isolating at his house. The statement added that authorities were tracing the man’s contacts and labs were studying tests from other people who may have also tested positive for the new variant.
2. In India, nine more passengers from the UK who arrived in Telangana after December 9 tested positive for coronavirus, which pushed the tally of cases among UK returnees to 16. Samples of all these passengers have been sent to the Centre for Cellular and Micro Biology (CCMB) for genome sequencing to confirm the variant and the results are expected in two days, Dr G Srinivasa Rao, the Director Public Health of Telangana said.
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3. World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge said that the new strain has been detected in eight countries of the continent adding that the WHO was continuing to monitor the situation. “The variant also seems to be spreading among younger age groups, unlike previous strains,” Kluge wrote on Twitter.
4. The United States, which continues to be the worst-hit nation from the pandemic has ordered that passengers arriving from the UK will be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test amid concerns of the new variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that these passengers would need to get a negative polymerase chain reaction or antigen test no more than 72 hours before leaving. The order will come into effect from Sunday and will be signed by President Donald Trump.
5. Norway on Friday extended its ban on flights from Britain until Sunday as the new variant is spreading rapidly across Europe. The government had first imposed the ban on December 21. The health ministry further added that flights might be suspended after New Year.
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6. Japan has confirmed the first cases of the new variant with Shigeru Omi, head of a government task force, calling for tighter border control to prevent its spread. Five people arrived in Japan from December 18-21, before the government stepped up border control for arrivals from Britain. Out of these five people, a man in his 60s had developed fatigue while the remaining four were without any symptoms. Health minister Norihisa Tamura said all of them were sent to quarantine straight from the airports.
(With agency inputs)