COVID-19: China confirms first case of UK coronavirus variant

Shanghai: China has confirmed its first case of a new coronavirus variant that was recently detected in Britain, health officials said.

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The new strain, which experts say potentially spreads faster than the original variant, has prompted travel restrictions on the UK by more than 50 countries – including China, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year.

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The first patient in China with the new variant is a 23-year-old woman from Shanghai who arrived from Britain on December 14, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control said in a research note published Wednesday.

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She was hospitalised on arrival as she showed mild symptoms. Health experts conducted a genetic sequencing of her test samples on December 24 “due to travel history from the UK and abnormalities in nucleic acid test results”,” the China CDC said.

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The patient was found to have a strain different to those found in Shanghai or Wuhan earlier, and further testing confirmed it was the variant known as B.1.1.7 that has been spreading in the UK since October.

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Health authorities have carried out contact-tracing, the CDC statement added.

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New strain

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China suspended direct flights to and from Britain indefinitely on December 24 because of the new strain.

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the new variant “may be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original version of the disease”.

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But there is no evidence so far to suggest that infection with the new variant is more likely to lead to a severe case of COVID-19 or increase the risk of death.

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