Spain and Sweden report cases of UK Covid variant

By Jedidajah Otte

Spain and Sweden have joined the growing list of countries to have reported cases of the more contagious coronavirus variant first identified in Britain.

Four cases of the variant have been confirmed in Madrid. All involve people who recently arrived from the UK, the Madrid regional government’s deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero, told a news conference on Saturday.

“The patients are not seriously ill, we know that this strain is more transmissible but it does not cause more serious illness,” he said. “There is no need for alarm.”

A further three suspected cases of the new variant have been tested, but the results will only be available on Tuesday or Wednesday, Zapatero said.

Madrid has banned all entries from the UK since Tuesday except for Spanish nationals and residents.

Swedish authorities detected the new strain after a traveller from Britain fell ill on arrival and tested positive, Sweden’s health agency said on Saturday.

Sara Byfors, a health agency official, told a news conference that the traveller, who was not identified, had kept isolated after arrival in Sweden and that no further positive cases had yet been detected.

Sweden imposed travel restrictions earlier this month on passengers from Britain amid concerns over the variant.

Similar measures have been taken by several other countries in the EU and around the world. On Saturday the Philippines extended a ban on flights from the UK by two weeks until mid-January in an effort to prevent the spread of the new variant.

The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, also ordered a 14-day quarantine for passengers who come from or travel through the UK or from countries where the more infectious Covid-19 variant has been detected, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and Japan.

On Friday, authorities in France and Lebanon also confirmed cases of the new variant.