Virus variant from Spain spread across Europe: study

Virus variant from Spain spread across Europe: study
Virus variant from Spain spread across Europe: study

Spain is the likely origin of a new coronavirus variant that is common in many European countries, according to researchers in Spain and Switzerland.

The variant accounts for almost 80% of the virus sequenced in Spain, 90% in the UK, 60% in Ireland, and 30-40% in Switzerland and the Netherlands. This is evident from a new study published in a form that has not yet been published to be peer-reviewed.

The variant has also been found in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Norway, and Sweden.

Authors from the University of Basel and the SeqCOVID-Spain consortium said that while there are hundreds of variants of the virus in Europe, “very few have spread as successfully and are as widespread” as this one.

There’s no evidence that this variant is more contagious than others, but they believe its expansion was fueled by the relaxation of travel restrictions and social distancing measures over the summer, the researchers pointed out

The researchers first identified the new variant in an outbreak among farm workers in the Spanish regions of Aragon and Catalonia in June, which then spread to the local population and later spread across Spain.

These eruptions were the first propeller of the Spanish summer eruptions and occurred just before the borders were opened to travel.

“A variant that is supported by an initial super-spreading event can quickly establish itself across the country,” said Dr. Inaki Comas, co-author of the study and head of the SeqCOVID-Spain consortium, in a press release.

From July the variant appeared across Europe and even in Hong Kong and New Zealand.

The authors analyzed travel data to Spain that summer and suggested that its popularity as a vacation destination fueled the spread of the variant.

Although several European countries began quarantining travelers from Spain in late July after local cases increased, genetic analysis found the variant “traveled between European countries at least dozen and possibly hundreds of times”.

From there, the variant “could spread into larger outbreaks through risky behaviors after returning home,” researchers say.

According to the World Health Organization, 2.8 million coronavirus infections were confirmed worldwide in the past week. Around 46% of these infections were found in Europe.

Countries across the continent have started to announce curfews, shop closings, and even total lockdowns. However, the authors of this study warn against ascribing this variant to the enormous increase.

“In some countries with a significant increase in Covid-19 cases such as Belgium and France, other variants are widespread.”

Instead, the authors emphasize the importance of assessing how border controls and travel restrictions can help contain the spread of viruses.

“While long-term travel restrictions and border closings are unsustainable or desirable, identifying better ways to reduce the risk of variants being introduced and ensuring that the variants that are introduced do not spread will help countries maintain goals that are often hard-won low SARS-CoV-2 transmission, ”the study found.

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