Italy has followed the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia and Belgium in discovering a case of the mutated strain of coronavirus originating from south-east England.
The case was brought in by one man and his partner who travelled to Rome from the UK after testing negative for the virus. The Italian government has confirmed that the couple is now isolating.
The new strain of the virus, which is said to be 70% more infectious than regular COVID, was found also in Denmark last month in nine separate cases with one case also popping up in Australia. The Netherlands also detected a case earlier this month and at least one unconfirmed case has been reported in Belgium.
The new strain of the virus has been spreading predominantly around south-east England and London but has also now spread to both Scotland and Wales. The more infectious version of coronavirus has also been reported to account for up to 60% of all new infections in these areas.
France has also stated that while no cases of the new strain have been confirmed, it is entirely possible that the mutated virus has entered the county undetected by tests. Northern Ireland’s first minister has also admitted that it is probable that the virus has invaded the Republic.
Travel bans have now been put in place
The steady spread of new cases has resulted in over a dozen countries putting travel bans in place, banning those from the UK from entering the country including France, Canada, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.
European Leaders will be having a crisis meeting today in order to unify Europe’s response in order to prevent the mutant virus from taking hold over the continent.
The travel ban initially caused French lorry drivers to refuse to enter the UK amidst fears that they would not be able to return home to their families for Christmas. This left drivers piled up on either side of Channel, while UK residents worried that a combination of panic buying and lack of importing would leave supermarket shelves totally bare.
Now, France has confirmed that they will be lifting the travel ban on Wednesday morning and lorry drivers will be able to cross the Channel in the coming hours in order to allow for safe trading. However, the lifting of the ban comes alongside a stricter testing regime in order to prevent the mutated virus from entering the country.
French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal announced that 2,000 to 3,000 drivers ‘could come over the border as soon as possible once European co-ordination and a reinforced health protocol have been set up in the coming hours’.
Those who will be returning to France form the UK will also be required to undergo a PCR test in order to detect and cases of the new strain.
Boris Johnson cancels Christmas
Boris Johnson sparked outrage in the UK this weekend as the Prime Minister not only sent London into tier four (meaning they can’t travel for Christmas or participate in indoor household mixing) but he also reduced the amnesty period from five days to just one for the rest of the county.
The announcement was made just 72 hours before the five-day ease was set to begin despite the Prime Minister stating last Wednesday that canecelling Christmas at this point would just be ‘inhuman’.
Boris blamed the move on the new strain of coronavirus, informing the masses that the new variant was over 70% more infectious than regular COVID. However, top-rated experts have criticised the PM for throwing out this number as it too soon to throw out an exact number.
Boris Johnson has since come out and defended his data stemming from the government advisory body The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), claiming that the data was ‘early data’ and still ‘subject to review’. He stated:
It's the best we have at the moment. We have to act on information as we have it because this is spreading very fast.
The new strain of coronavirus labelled VUI-202012/01 was discovered in the UK back in September with cases popping up predominantly in Kent and London. Now, three months later, over 1000 cases of the mutated strain have been found in 60 different local authorities across the country.
By the middle of November, the new strain was said to account for 28% of new cases of the virus, with the percentage rising to 62% of cases by the 9th of December.
Minutes released from a NERVTAG meeting on the 18th of December also reveal that the body had ‘moderate confidence’ that the new strain of coronavirus ‘demonstrates a substantial increase in transmissibility compared to other variants'.
Despite this, the new variant of the virus is still under review and all those who have been moved into tier four have been advised to follow all regulations in order to hamper the spread of the new strain.