UK to Japan: These countries have reported new coronavirus strain
Just as vaccines against COVID-19 were starting to roll out in parts of the world, a new strain of the coronavirus has stirred global panic. The new strain is said to be more transmissible, however, no evidence suggests that it can cause a more serious illness. Since it was first detected in the United Kingdom, over a dozen countries have reported the new variant.
The new variant was first detected in southern England in September and has been blamed for the sharp rise in the number of infections. The Office for National Statistics estimated roughly two-thirds of the infected people in the region could have the new variant. The UK has placed millions under a strict lockdown and at least 50 countries have imposed travel restrictions on it.
Health authorities in Spain said on Saturday that four cases involving the new variant had been detected. All those infected had recently arrived from the UK. "The patients are not seriously ill. We know that this strain is more transmissible, but it does not cause more serious illness," Madrid's regional government's deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
In Switzerland, three people have tested positive for the new strain, the Federal Office of Public Health said on Saturday. Two of those infected lived in the UK but were visiting Switzerland. "All close contacts have been quarantined," a FOPH spokesperson told Swiss Info.
Denmark has reported nine cases of the new variant, while the Netherlands has reported at least two infections. Sweden's health agency said on Saturday that a traveler from the UK fell ill on arrival and tested positive. France reported its first case—a French national who had returned from London—on Friday. Italian officials confirmed a couple has tested positive. Germany has reported one case in Frankfurt.
On Friday, Japan reported the first five cases of the new strain. Officials on Saturday confirmed the first locally-transmitted case. This week, Japanese officials ordered a travel suspension, imposing a temporary ban on non-resident foreign nationals entering the country. Japanese citizens and foreign residents must show a negative COVID-19 test obtained 72 hours before departing for Japan. They must also quarantine for two weeks.
UK Health Secretary said on Thursday that two cases of another new variant have been detected in South Africa. Meanwhile, Nigeria reported another new variant of the coronavirus on Thursday, separate from the strains identified in South Africa and the UK. Little is known about the variant so far and authorities have sought more time to furnish details after analysis.
In Canada, a couple tested positive for the new strain on Saturday. Notably, they had no foreign travel history or high-risk contacts. Singapore confirmed one case of the new variant on Thursday. Lebanon's Health Minister also reported a case involving a London returnee. Meanwhile, two cases have been detected in New South Wales, Australia, after a flight arrived from the UK.