France and Sweden confirmed their first cases of a new coronavirus variant that was recently identified in the UK, the countries’ respective health ministries have confirmed. Experts believe the mutated version of the virus is around 70% more contagious.
The identification of this new variant, known as VOC-202012/01, has prompted more than 50 countries to impose restrictions on travel to the UK.
The infected man arrived in France from London on December 19. He is asymptomatic and isolating at home in the central city of Tours.
Authorities are tracing the person’s contacts.
In addition to the first case, laboratories are analyzing tests from several other people who may have the new variant, the statement said.
France has recently imposed a blockade on people traveling from the UK in a bid to limit the spread. Although the officials lifted the snap measure after two days, the move stranded thousands of drivers in Dover.
Some limits on travel Between the UK and France remain in place in a bid to stop the new variant from spreading.
Elsewhere in Europe
In Germany, the country’s Association of Cities told people to lower expectations for the coronavirus vaccine in the short term — a day before Germany’s vaccination scheme is due to begin.
“It’s a start, but the specter of the dangerous coronavirus isn’t gone just yet,” the association’s president, Burkhard Jung, told the Funke Media Group in an interview.
He added that mass inoculation was not yet feasible because there was “too little vaccine” at present.
The first dose of the BioNtech-Pfizer vaccine was being distributed Saturday ahead of Sunday’s rollout.
Also on Saturday, Germany recorded another 14,455 coronavirus cases and the death toll rose by 240 to 29,422.
Russia has given the green light to its vaccine, Sputnik V, for use by people over the age of 60, Russian news agencies cited the health ministry as saying.
Older citizens had previously been excluded from Russia’s national vaccine program, as the injection had been tested on this age group separately.
The news will offer some relief in the country that has just crossed three million COVID-19 cases.
The first 9,750 vaccine doses have arrived in Greece. They were transported across the border with Bulgaria in the north. A video showed the van carrying them escorted by six police cars.
Vaccinations will begin at five Athens hospitals on Sunday. Health personnel and elderly residents of nursing homes are first in line to be vaccinated.