- The disease was detected in a person who returned from the UK to Italy in the past few days.
- The Italian government suspended flights from the United Kingdom Saturday.
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that preliminary data suggest that the mutation in Sars-CoV-2 may be up to 70% more transmissible.
Italian health authorities have detected the first case of infection with the new variant of the deadly coronavirus identified in the United Kingdom, Italy’s Ministry of Health said in a statement on Sunday. The new coronavirus strain has spread across the UK and, according to the British government, can be up to 70% more contagious than the known previous variants.
The disease was detected in a person who returned from the UK to Italy in the past few days. The patient and his partner disembarked at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in the Italian capital.
The authorities reported that the couple followed all procedures established by the Ministry of Health, as well as other family members and close contacts. The couple and relatives are in isolation.
UK Flights Suspended
Also on Sunday, the Italian government suspended flights from the United Kingdom because of the new form of COVID-19. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio posted on Facebook:
The UK has issued an alert on a new form of Covid that would be the result of a virus mutation. As a government we have a duty to protect Italians, for this reason, after warning the British Government, with the Ministry of Health, we are about to sign the measure to suspend flights with Great Britain. Our priority is to protect Italy and our countrymen.
Italy’s Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza, signed the flight suspension order and also banned those who had been in British territory for the past two weeks from entering Italy. All those who already returned will need to undergo a COVID-19 test, Minister Speranza said in a statement.
In addition to Italy, several other European countries– including Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany– also imposed bans on the arrival of flights from the United Kingdom to their respective territories, after reports of the appearance on British soil of this new coronavirus strain.
Up to 70% More Transmissible
In announcing on Saturday the discovery of the new variant, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that preliminary data suggest that the mutation in Sars-CoV-2 may be up to 70% more transmissible.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new coronavirus variant was out of control and that the situation “is deadly serious.” So far, however, experts believe the new variant is no more deadly or more resistant to vaccines than the original.
The variant can now be found throughout the United Kingdom, with the exception of Northern Ireland. It is mainly concentrated in London and in the South East and East of England.
Last week, Europe became the first region in the world to surpass the 500,000 COVID-19 death mark. Many European countries have resumed a rigorous lockdown and are expected to extend it until mid-January.
Since the emergence of the new coronavirus, the disease has killed almost 1.7 million people and infected just under 77 million people.