Relaxed travel rules helped new coronavirus variant spread through Europe
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Relaxed travel rules helped new coronavirus variant spread through Europe

Credit: Belga

Swiss and Spanish researchers have identified a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that has spread throughout Europe and elsewhere in recent months.

This variant is currently one of the most widespread in Europe, the University of Basel said Thursday in a statement.

According to analyses carried out by researchers at the University of Basel, the ETH Zurich in Basel and the SeqCOVID-Spain consortium, all indications are that the new variant, called “20A.EU1”, appeared for the first time this summer in Spain.

There is no evidence that the variant is more dangerous than others, according to scientists.

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Its appearance is thought to be linked to a superspreader event among agricultural workers in north-eastern Spain. The variant then quickly conquered all of Spain, 12 European countries, even reaching as far as Hong Kong and New Zealand.

The spread of the disease is thought to be due to the easing of restrictions during the summer, the fact that Spain is a popular tourist destination, and risky behaviour on returning from holidays.

“From the spread of 20A.EU1, it seems clear that the measures in place were often not sufficient to stop onward transmission of introduced variants this summer,” said the study’s first author, Emma Hodcroft.

It is important to note that there is currently no evidence linking this new variant to an increase in the transmission of the virus or to a different course of the disease, Hodcroft said.

The article has yet to be peer-reviewed, but can be read in its entirety here.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times