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Saturday, 16 October 2021 3.01 PM IST

Italy detects patient with new strain of ‘more infectious’ virus found in UK

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ROME: Italy has detected a patient infected with the new strain of the pandemic also found in Britain, the health ministry said on Sunday.

The patient and his partner returned from the United Kingdom in the last few days with a flight that landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport and were now in isolation, the ministry said.

Britain’s European neighbours began closing their doors to travellers from the United Kingdom on Sunday amid alarm about the rapidly spreading strain of pandemic that has caused cases to soar there.

A new variant of the virus strain has been discovered in the United Kingdom last week and could be the reason behind the sharp rise in cases in the country. Scientists and researchers say the new strain has much higher transmissibility than compared to the earlier variant.

Although experts believe that the vaccines that have been rolled out will be effective against the new strain, the fact that it speeds faster has forced the UK government to take urgent action in form of tighter restrictions ahead of Christmas.

Retired doctor Mohan Gupte, who is the founder-director of ICMR Epidemiology department in Chennai, explained why the new Covid-19 strain spreads faster and whether it will endanger the current efforts to tackle the pandemic.

How harmful is the new virus strain?

Gupte said the new variant was discovered around September 20 in South England. This is the time when the virus cases started rising sharply in the country.

“This new variant is showing some 17 changes in the genome, this is a very large change. Due to this change, the transmissibility of this virus has also changed and is 70% more infectious compared to the earlier variant,” Gupte said.

Gupte said there is a high possibility that the new strain is still in the UK as it has not been detected in other parts of Europe.

He also said that the virus is quite stable when compared to influenza. “It has got its own self-mechanism of repairing and, therefore, the changes that occur in the virus are comparatively small and very slow,” Gupte added.

Regarding the transmission rate of the new virus variant, Gupte said it has a “very high transmissibility” of 70 per cent, compared to the earlier variant that had 50 per cent. He confirmed again that the sharp rise in cases in the UK is mostly due to the new fast-spreading virus strain.

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TAGS: BRITAIN, HEALTH MINISTRY, ROME, ITALY, UNITED KINGDOM, CHRISTMAS, EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURS, ICMR EPIDEMOLOGY, NEW VIRUS STRAIN
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