Chinese mainland reports first case of coronavirus variant detected in UK
Updated 23:12, 01-Jan-2021

The Chinese mainland has reported the first case of a new variant of the novel coronavirus recently detected in the UK, the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC) said.

The new strain was detected in a 23-year-old female student returning to China from Britain. The student was tested in Shanghai on December 14, according to the latest edition of China CDC Weekly published on Wednesday.

The gene-sequence of the patient's sample conducted on December 24, revealed that the strain is a variant known as "VUI-202012/01" which has been circulating in the UK. The patient has been transferred to the designated medical institution for isolation and treatment.

The variant was picked up as part of an epidemiological and virological investigation initiated earlier in December 2020 following an unexpected rise in COVID-19 cases in Southeast England, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Initial analysis indicates that the variant may spread more readily between people, said the WHO.

The new "VUI-202012/01" variant has been identified in several countries, including Australia, Denmark, Italy, Iceland, the Netherlands and some Asian countries like Japan and South Korea. 

The case "poses a great potential threat to the prevention and control of COVID-19 in China," the CDC said. 

On December 27, China's civil aviation regulator announced to suspend regular passenger flights between China and the UK from December 28, 2020, to January 10, 2021. 

'No need to panic'

Following the revelation, an official from CDC said the new variant so far does not cause more severe illness, adding there's no need for the public to panic.

"The mutated variant, compared with previous mutated variants .... has no obvious change so far in its ability to cause disease," Xu Wenbo, an official at the Chinese CDC, told state TV, China Central Television.

On Friday night, Zhang Wenhong, head of Shanghai's COVID-19 clinical experts team also reassured the public.

"For mutant viruses, there will not be any clinical particularity," Zhang said in a social media post, adding the female patient, who had only showed very mild symptoms, has already tested negative and left the quarantine ward. 

Zhang said the variant might be slightly more transmissible but it hasn't been found yet that COVID-19 vaccines do not work on it.

(Cover: Workers are disinfecting streets to contain the spread of coronavirus in Shanghai, China, November 24, 2020. /CFP)

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