Dangerous U.K. Coronavirus Variant Jumps Borders In Europe, Canada
A terrifying new variant of coronavirus introduced in the UK has now been discovered in several European countries as well as Japan, Lebanon, Australia and Canada, health officials reported.
France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark were among the countries that reported cases.
Several countries imposed travel bans on the UK on Sunday after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned of the strain, which scientists have found to be about 56% more transmissible than other strains. (Johnson initially said it was up to 70% more transferable.)
Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, on Sunday called on President Donald Trump's administration - whom he described as "grossly negligent" - to immediately ban travel to the UK or to require passengers to be screened as there are six daily flights to New Yorkers Airports fly.
"Today this variant gets on a plane and lands at JFK," Cuomo said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that travelers from the UK would need a negative COVID-19 test within three days of boarding a plane to the US. The requirement goes into effect on Monday, eight days after Cuomo's desperate call to action.
The number of variant cases discovered to date is low in the other countries: seven in Japan and four in Spain (another three are suspect), the New York Times reported. However, officials fear that travelers have worn the variant for weeks and many more cases may have yet to be discovered.
Authorities found that most of the cases were UK related. A single case reported in Sweden on Saturday was a traveler from the UK visiting on vacation, Reuters reported.
But an affected couple in Canada had not traveled and were likely to have caught COVID-19 from travelers, suggesting a second phase in the spread of the new variant by the local community.
According to the CDC, the new variant has not yet appeared in the USA. However, the US is doing little genetic sequencing to track strains of the coronavirus, so the "variant could already be in the US without being detected," the agency said.
The variant was first spotted in the UK in September, but health officials only recently figured out how much easier it is to spread. It doesn't seem more deadly per case, but a larger number of cases could result in a higher death toll.
Current COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be effective against the variant. However, since the variant could suddenly trigger an alarming surge in some cases, "it may be necessary to significantly accelerate the introduction of vaccines," warned researchers in a study that has not yet been peer-reviewed.
"The preliminary results are pretty persuasive that faster vaccination will be a really important thing for any country dealing with this or similar variants," said lead researcher Nicholas Davies, epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine according to the Times.
Without a more aggressive rollout of vaccines, the number of deaths and deaths in 2021 could exceed the number of victims in 2020, the study warned.
As for Trump, he slammed Democrats in a tweet on Saturday for imposing restrictions recommended by health experts to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
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