Spain and Sweden report cases of new coronavirus variant

A growing list of countries now say the mutation has spread to their shores

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Authorities in Spain and Sweden have reported a cluster of new cases of a mutant coronavirus variant that was first identified in England.

Madrid’s regional government confirmed on Saturday it had detected four cases 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 said.

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 test to confirm this.

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.

“There is no need for alarm.”

There are another three suspected cases of the coronavirus variant but the results of tests will only be available on Tuesday or Wednesday, Mr Zapatero said.

The new strain of the virus has prompted more than 50 countries including Spain to impose travel restrictions on the UK.

Madrid has banned all entries from Britain except Spanish nationals and residents.

France and Italy have also already confirmed cases of the new variant, while the World Health Organisation reported that nine cases have been detected in Denmark and one each in the Netherlands and Australia.

Sweden's Health Agency also said on Saturday that one cases of the disease had been found there.

Health Agency official Sara Byfors told a news conference the traveller had been isolating and that no further positive cases had so far been detected.

epa08899676 Travellers from Denmark are met by swedish police in protective masks at the border control point at Hyllie station in Malmo, Sweden, 22 December 2020. The swedish government shut the border after a mutated strain of the coronavirus was discovered in Denmark.  EPA/Johan Nilsson/TT  SWEDEN OUT

The unidentified traveller was staying in Sormland, south of the capital Stockholm, said Signe Makitalo, a regional infection control doctor. The new variant is thought to be more transmissible than others currently circulating.

“The person that tested positive with the virus travelled to Sormland from Great Britain for a visit over Christmas,” Dr Makitalo said.

The risk of further contagion from the case was considered extremely limited, he said.

Sweden imposed travel restrictions earlier this month on passengers from Britain amid concern about the variant.

Similar measures have been taken by several other countries in the EU and across the world.

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