New York marks anniversary of first coronavirus case

State continues to reopen but threat of local variant continues

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New York is marking the anniversary of its first confirmed coronavirus case, which was found just before the city became the global centre for the pandemic.

“This is a day for reflection,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday.

“One year ago today, we had our first confirmed Covid case here in New York City, the first person in New York City that we knew had the coronavirus."

The first case was a person travelling from Iran to Manhattan, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at the time.

A community in Westchester, to the north of the city, early in March became the first part of the state to introduce a containment zone to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

But global and domestic travel and business continued, bringing the undetected and uncontrolled spread of the new virus.

The first case and the small lockdown were harbingers of what was to come for New York City, when it eventually became the global centre of the pandemic in late March and early April.

At its worst, the city's hospitals were overwhelmed to the point where they had to request refrigerated trailers for the deceased.

There were several days of more than 700 Covid-19 deaths in a lockdown that closed non-essential businesses and offices.

The city accounted for most of the state’s deaths.

“It’s amazing. This has been the longest year in the history of the city,” Mr de Blasio said. “Longest year, the toughest year.”

New York City has recorded more than 29,000 confirmed deaths and 725,000 coronavirus cases since then.

New York state registered more than 47,000 deaths and 1.64 million infections.

The city now has an average of more than 4,000 positive coronavirus test results each day.

Cases have been on the decline for weeks but have levelled out over the past few days.

January was New York City's worst month for cases.

There is now focus on a possible locally grown variant that could cause a surge in cases, as New York continues to try to reopen.

Two research teams in New York and California discovered a variant, called B1526, that could have been behind at least a quarter of new cases in the past few months.

The researchers said it could weaken the strength of Covid medical treatments or vaccines.

The variant has attracted the attention of the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, and other public health experts at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Monday, Dr Fauci said the variant should be investigated “for its ability to evade both monoclonal antibody and, to a certain extent, the vaccine-induced antibody".

He said the variant was "something we take very, very seriously".

Meanwhile, Mr Cuomo allowed restaurants to increase indoor dining capacity to 35 per cent at the weekend.

Movie theatres will also be allowed to welcome patrons, with coronavirus-related limits and precautions on March 5.