The new strain of coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom has already reached 14 European countries | Society

The new strain of the coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom, which according to the first investigations is not more serious but more contagious than the dominant one so far in Europe, has already reached 14 countries on the continent and another 10 in the rest of the world. This is how a risk report published Tuesday by the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), which warns that “the danger of increased pressure on healthcare systems in the coming weeks is high” in European countries.

The UK has already noticed the impact of the new strain on its hospitals. “The data show that the contagion rates in the geographical areas where this particular strain has begun to circulate have increased much faster than expected,” reported the country’s health officials on Monday.

According to the ECDC, the European countries that at the time of closing the report had detected cases of the new variant are Denmark (46); Portugal (21); Italy (14); Iceland (13); Netherlands (11); Spain (nine, although this Wednesday new cases have been confirmed that raise the number of infected to at least 14); Ireland (seven); Belgium (four); Finland, Norway, Switzerland and Germany (two each); and France and Sweden (one per country).

Outside the continent, the country with the most diagnoses is Japan (eight) followed by India (six), Israel (five), Australia and Canada (four), South Korea (three), Hong Kong and Jordan (two) and Singapore and Lebanon (one).

Virtually all cases have been confirmed in people with a history of travel or close contact with travelers from the United Kingdom, except for the four cases detected in Belgium in which the source of the infection is “unknown”. If anything, the authors expect these figures to rise in the coming days and fear that these data may be just the tip of the iceberg.

According to the ECDC, “preliminary results show a possible association between the new variant and a higher viral load” in patients, which would be up to four times higher. “It is expected that a higher viral load,” the report continues, “is associated with greater spread of the virus and greater transmissibility.”

Extreme vigilance

For those responsible for the agency, the information available should lead European countries to be extremely vigilant in the coming weeks. The ECDC considers the risk of the new variant spreading through the countries of the continent as “high”. The danger of an increase in the number of “hospitalizations and deaths” due to its greater contagiousness is also “high”, although the clinical pictures caused by the new strain are similar to the current ones.

The coincidence of the Christmas holidays, in which social interactions increase, with the first phases of the spread of the new variant is of particular concern to those responsible for the ECDC, who recommend maintaining precautions.

Among the measures to slow down the spread of the new strain in Europe, the agency proposes to the countries “the genetic sequencing of targeted and representative cases to early detect and monitor the incidence of the variant.” Also, “increase the monitoring and testing of people from or with links to the areas with a higher incidence” of the new strain, in this case the United Kingdom. “Strengthen contact tracing and isolation of suspected and confirmed cases”, “alert people from areas with the highest incidence of the need to undergo testing and comply with quarantines” and “avoid non-essential travel” to risk areas are the other ECDC recommendations.

There is no evidence that vaccines that have begun to be applied around the world are less effective against the new strain. For this reason, the agency maintains that “although in the short and medium term vaccinations will probably contribute to dealing with the virus, it is essential to apply these measures immediately and until the available doses” begin to reduce the incidence of the disease in the continent.

Information about the coronavirus

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