Covid-19 updates: Canada, Sweden add first cases of new variant, UK sees tougher measures

The new variant (B117) of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) identified in the United Kingdom (UK) in mid-December with a 70 per cent transmissible rate is spreading rapidly across the globe. Canada and Sweden have already reported the first cases of the variant. Many countries have tightened their border restrictions to temporarily ban or screen the passengers coming from the UK. Meanwhile, the UK – which is the epicentre of the new coronavirus variant – has ordered closure of shops selling non-essential goods, gymnasiums and pools and has prohibited the mixing of indoor households

Here are the latest updates on the new Covid-19 variant: 

1. Canada’s Ontario province on Saturday reported the first two cases of the new Covid-19 variant detected in the UK. According to CBS New, the two people – who are a couple – don’t have any known travel history and high risk contacts and are currently placed under self-isolation. The health authorities in Ontario have issued a release urging all residents of the province to stay at home as much as possible and follow all protocols including the lockdown measures beginning from today.

2. In India, the central government’s National Task Force on Saturday said that five per cent of the positive cases across all states and union territories will be tested for Whole Genome Sequencing adding that this is being done in view of the new Covid-19 strain detected in the UK. A release issued by the Union health ministry added that over 50 samples of UK returnees are under sequencing at designated labs.

3. Sweden identified the first case of the new variant after a person from the UK arrived in Södermanland county to celebrate Christmas. Signar Makitalo, the infection prevention doctor of the region said that there is possibility that more people might have been infected with the variant. The health agency has ordered all those in Sweden who travelled from the UK after December 12 to be tested for Covid-19.

4. Millions of residents in the UK are witnessing tougher coronavirus measures since Saturday, with Northern Ireland and Scotland demanding tighter restrictions in order to halt the spread of the new variant of the virus. People placed under England’s top level of restrictions — Tier 4 — increased by 6 million on Saturday to 24 million in total. Indoor mixing of households is prohibited and only essential travel is allowed. On the other hand, shops selling non-essential goods, gymnasiums and pools, salons have been ordered to close and restaurants can only do takeout.

5. After reporting the first case of the UK variant on Friday, the Japanese government said that it would temporarily ban entry of non-resident foreign nationals and has further tightened border restrictions. The ban will take effect from December 28 and will run through January, the government said in a statement. “Japanese citizens and foreign residents will be allowed to enter but must show proof of a negative coronavirus test 72 hours before departing for Japan and must quarantine for two weeks after arrival,” the statement added.

(With agency inputs)

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