- Scientists said in a report on Thursday that most of the new COVID-19 cases in Europe are from a variant of the coronavirus spread by tourists from Spain.
- Scientists say that this variant of the coronavirus was first discovered in northeastern Spain in June and was taken abroad by tourists and other travelers.
- The research team of the University of Basel, ETH Basel ETH Zurich and SeqCOVID of Spain stated that there is not enough data to show that this variant 20A.EU1 is more lethal.
- This variant has been found in 12 countries on the African continent as well as Hong Kong and New Zealand.
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Scientists said in a report on Thursday that most of the new COVID-19 cases in Europe originated from a variant strain of the coronavirus that can be traced back to Spain and was spread by tourists throughout the European continent during the summer.
They say this variant most likely originated from farm workers in northeastern Spain, where the species was first recorded in June.
A team of scientists from the University of Basel, ETH Basel, ETH Zurich, and SeqCOVID in Spain said that a suspicious “super spreader” event was the cause of the early spread of the virus, which was subsequently spread abroad by tourists and other travelers.
They said that by October, the variant had been found in 12 countries on the African continent, as well as Hong Kong and New Zealand.
They said that there is currently no data to show that the variant is more deadly.
By the end of July, the SARS-CoV-2 variant was called 20A.EU1 and it had spread to at least six European countries.
Scientists say that there are hundreds of virus variants in Europe, but few are as widespread as the 20A.EU1 cluster.
The scientist said: “This variant 20A.EU1 and the second variant 20A.EU2…constitute most of the most recent sequence in Europe.”
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Researchers say vacationers returning from Spain played an important role in the spread of the virus in Europe.
In the United Kingdom, four-fifths of new virus cases are from this mutation, and scientists associate it with approximately 250 separate transmissions of the virus to the country in July and August.
In contrast, the analysis of the Hong Kong virus sequence showed that the infection there came from only one source, while the New Zealand sample may have come from at least three routes of transmission in Europe.
Scientists say that this variant is mainly contained in Europe because of the lack of intercontinental travel during the pandemic. Authorities allow non-isolated travel on the African continent during part of the summer.
Scientists say the rising prevalence of 20A.EU1 across Europe “means that summer travel guidelines and restrictions are usually not enough to prevent the continued spread of introductions.”
The research team added that the variant may be more infectious than the usual SARS-CoV-2 strain, but they said it is “particularly difficult” to determine why the variant spreads so quickly.
They added that scientists do not know whether this variant is made worse by lack of data. They said that genome monitoring allows them to detect and track this gene cluster, but “the lack of consistent sequencing across Europe still limits our efforts.”
The researchers added that the government should take the data into account when planning a trip back to Europe.
Before the report was released, France and Germany announced stricter lockdown restrictions on Wednesday.
These countries will face a one-month lockdown, and bars and restaurants will have to close again. In France, non-essential shops are also not allowed to operate, while in Germany, hotels cannot accommodate tourists, and stadiums and theaters must be closed.