China confirmed its first case of a new coronavirus variant recently detected in Britain, health officials said.
The new strain, which experts say potentially spreads faster than the original variant, has led to travel restrictions in more than 50 countries in the United Kingdom—including China, where coronavirus first emerged late last year.
The first patient in China with a new variant is a 23-year-old woman from Shanghai who arrived from Britain on 14 December, said the Chinese Center for Disease Control in a research note published on Wednesday.
She was hospitalised upon arrival as she had mild symptoms. Health experts conducted a genetic sequencing of their test samples on 24 December ‘due to UK travel history and nucleic acid abnormality test results,’ China CDC said.
The patient was found to have a strain different from that found in Shanghai or Wuhan earlier, and further testing confirmed that the variant known as B.1.1.7 had spread to the United Kingdom since October.
Health authorities have made contact-tracing, the CDC statement added.
On 24 December, China suspended direct flights to and from Britain indefinitely due to the new strain.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new variant “may be up to 70% more communicable than the original version of the disease.”
However, there is no evidence to date to suggest that infection with the new variant is more likely to lead to a serious Covid-19 case or increase the risk of death.