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France and Spain confirm cases of new coronavirus strain

The patient in France’s first case arrived in the country from London on 19 December.
Dec 26th 2020, 8:20 AM 32,181 36

Updated Dec 26th 2020, 1:45 PM

FRANCE AND SPAIN have both confirmed their first cases of the new coronavirus variant that recently emerged in Britain.

The new strain of the virus, which experts fear is more contagious, has prompted more than 50 countries to impose travel restrictions on the UK.

The first French case — found in a citizen living in Britain who arrived from London on 19 December — is asymptomatic and self-isolating at home in Tours in central France, the ministry said late Friday.

They were tested in a hospital on 21 December, and later found positive for the strain.

Health authorities have carried out contact-tracing for the health professionals taking care of the patient, the ministry said in a statement.

Any of their contacts that were seen as vulnerable would similarly be isolated, it said.

In addition to this first case, several other positive samples that “may suggest the VOC 202012/01 variant are being sequenced” by the specialist laboratories of the national Pasteur Institute, the statement added.

On Monday, France’s health minister Olivier Veran had admitted that it was possible the newly discovered strain was already in the country.

Spain has also registered its first cases of the coronavirus variant, according to Madrid’s regional government.

The region said four cases had been detected involving people who had recently arrived from the UK or had close contact with someone who had.

The father, mother and sister of a young man who arrived in Madrid by plane last week have tested positive for the coronavirus variant, it added.

The young man is suspected to have the new variant as well but Spanish authorities are waiting for the results of a polymerase chain reaction PCR test to confirm this.

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The fourth confirmed case of the new variant involves a man who arrived in Madrid on December 20 on another flight.

“The patients are not seriously ill, we know that this strain is more transmissible, but it does not cause more serious illness,” Madrid regional deputy health chief Antonio Zapatero told a news conference.

Italian authorities have detected the new strain in a patient in Rome, while the World Health Organization reported that nine cases have been detected in Denmark and one each in the Netherlands and Australia.

Following the snap 48-hour ban this week, France had reopened its borders to the UK — partly to allow French citizens to return home, as well as to relieve the massive build-up of freight goods — but had instituted a testing policy.

France’s interior ministry said Thursday that limits on travel from the UK will continue “until at least January 6″.

For now, only citizens of France or the EU, those with residency rights there or business travellers are allowed to make the crossing from the UK — if they can show a negative Covid-19 test less than three days old.

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