Scientists say that a mutant strain of COVID-19 is causing most of the new infections in Europe and has spread across the continent by tourists.

Scientists say that a mutant strain of COVID-19 is causing most of the new infections in Europe and has spread across the continent by tourists.
  • Most of the new cases of COVID-19 in Europe come from a mutated type of virus that is spread from Spain by tourists, scientists said in a report on Thursday.

  • Scientists said that the Corona virus originated in northeast Spain in June and was transmitted abroad by other tourists and travelers.

  • A team from the University of Basel, ETH Zürich in Basel and SeqCOVID in Spain said there is not enough data to suggest this variant, known as 20A.EU1, is more lethal.

  • The variant has been identified in 12 countries across the continent, plus Hong Kong and New Zealand.

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Scientists said in a report on Thursday that the majority of new cases of Covid-19 in Europe stem from a mutant strain of the virus that began in Spain and has spread to tourists across the continent.

They said the variable most likely originated in farm workers in northeast Spain, where it was first recorded in June.

The team of scientists from the University of Basel, ETH Zürich in Basel, and SeqCOVID in Spain said a suspected “super-spread” event was responsible for the early spread of the virus, which was then spread abroad by tourists and other travelers.

By October, they said, the alternative had been identified in 12 countries across the continent, plus Hong Kong and New Zealand.

They said there is no data yet to indicate that this alternative is more lethal.

The SARS-CoV-2 variant, known as 20A.EU1, had spread to at least six European countries by late July.

Scientists said that hundreds of types of the virus are found in Europe, but few are as widely spread as the 20A.EU1 group.

The scientists said: “This variant, 20A.EU1, and the second variant, 20A.EU2 … represent the majority of modern European sequences.”


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The researchers said that vacationers returning from Spain played a significant role in the spread of the virus across Europe.

This difference resulted in more than four in five new cases of the virus in the United Kingdom, and scientists have linked this to about 250 single cases of transmission of the virus to the country in July and August.

In comparison, analysis of the virus sequence in Hong Kong indicates that the infection there came from only one source, and that New Zealand samples could have been from three separate transmission cases from Europe.

The scientists said the alternative is mainly found within Europe due to intercontinental travel. Authorities allowed travel without quarantine for parts of the summer.

The scientists said the high prevalence of 20A.EU1 across Europe “meant that summer travel guidelines and restrictions were generally not sufficient to prevent the introduction from moving forward.”

The team added that the variant could be more contagious than the usual SARS-CoV-2 strain, but they said it was “particularly difficult” to determine what caused the variant to spread so quickly.

They added that scientists do not know if the variable is more dangerous due to lack of data. Genomic surveillance allows them to detect and track this population, but “the absence of a consistent, uniform sequence across Europe continues to limit our efforts”.

The researchers added that governments should take the data into account when planning to return travel through Europe.

The report comes after France and Germany announced tougher lockdown restrictions on Wednesday.

The countries will face a one-month lockdown, as bars and restaurants will have to close again. In France, non-essential stores are also not permitted to remain open, while in Germany, hotels cannot host tourists, and gyms and theaters must be closed.

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