New coronavirus strain reported in three European countries, says EU agency

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Coronavirus cases; Covid-19; Travel Restriction; Virus

Cases of Covid-19 involving the new coronavirus variant observed in Britain have been reported in at least three other countries in Europe, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said.

The Stockholm-based agency said in a “threat assessment” that while preliminary analysis in the UK suggests the new variant is “significantly more transmissible”, there is no indication that infections are more severe.

It said “timely efforts” to prevent and control the spread of cases of the new variant are needed.

The ECDC said a few cases with the new variant have been reported already by Iceland, Denmark and the Netherlands.

It also cited media reports of cases in Belgium and Italy.

The EU agency urged health authorities and labs to monitor for the new variant’s spread and alert other EU countries about new cases.

It said studies are ongoing to assess what impact the new variant has on the risk of reinfections or the efficacy of vaccines.

Britain has alerted the World Health Organisation that the new variant identified this week appears to be accelerating the spread of Covid-19, saying it accounted for some 60% of the capital’s cases.

Viruses mutate regularly, and scientists have found thousands different of mutations among samples of the virus causing Covid-19.

But many of these changes have no effect on how easily the virus spreads or how severe symptoms are.

Belgium has also banned travel from the UK and also banned rail connections.

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said he was issuing the order for 24 hours starting at midnight “out of precaution”.

“There are a great many questions about this new mutation and if it is not already on the mainland,” he said.

He hoped to have more clarity as of Tuesday.

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