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A team of scientists tasked with tracking mutations to the coronavirus has raised concerns over one particular variant, called 20A.EU1 has spread through Europe and is now responsible for the majority of new cases in several countries, including the UK, where the new variant accounts for more than 80% of new infections.
20A.EU1 was first seen in Spain, a favorite destination for holidaymakers from across Europe. The team’s findings suggest that the rapid spread of the new strain directly results from tourists returning from their holidays there.
The findings seem to indicate that the second wave of infections sweeping across Europe could have been reduced with better screening at airports.
“From the spread of 20A.EU1, it seems clear that the measures in place were often not sufficient to stop onward transmission of introduced variants this summer,” said Emma Hodcroft, lead author of the new study.
Dr. Hodcroft went on to add that there was “no evidence that the variant’s spread is due to a coronavirus mutation that increases transmission or impacts clinical outcome”.
However, she pointed out that 20A.EU1 was unlike any version of Sars-Cov-2 — the virus that causes Covid-19.
According to this latest study, 20A.EU1, with its six distinct genetic mutations, was first observed in agricultural workers in north-east Spain in early June and spread rapidly through the local population.
The report concluded that the “risky behavior” of holidaymakers in Spain, such as ignoring social distancing, helped spread the coronavirus new mutation.
The penetration numbers for 20A.EU1 is alarming. Over 80% of new cases in the UK, 80% of new cases in Spain, 60% in Ireland, and 40% in France and Switzerland.
Countries around Europe face a second wave of covid-19 infections. The fear is that the resurgence will force new measures, with France and Germany already imposing recent lockdowns and Spain announcing regional border closures to limit the spread.
A new total lockdown would be catastrophic for the whole of Europe, but more so for countries in the South with a much higher reliance on their tourism industries. Revenues for the high-season months of June, July, and August are down by as much as 70%, and with a new wave of infections and possible lockdowns, the future seems bleak for the off-season months as well.
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