THE new coronavirus strain which is up to 70% more infectious has now been detected in Gibraltar and around the world.
It was first revealed by the UK this week after accounting for almost two-thirds of cases in London by mid-December.
According to BBC news, it was actually first detected in September.
The new variant, which is not believed to be more deadly, has since been detected in all parts of the UK – bar Northern Ireland – plus Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Australia.
Meanwhile France and South Africa believe they have cases of the new strain, known as VUI-202012/01, but neither have been able to confirm its presence.
Spain said Monday that ‘there is no record’ of the new strain in the country after it announced new severe flight restrictions on UK arrivals.
All travellers from the country are now essentially barred unless they are a returning resident or citizen.
However there have been flights arriving to Spain from the UK since the latter lifted its national lockdown on December 2 – two months after the new strain was first detected.
Workers have also continued to cross the border from Gibraltar to Spain, the former of which confirmed the existence of the new strain on Monday.
A string of other countries – including Canada and Germany – have also restricted UK arrivals to avoid the spread of the variant, but scientists say it could already be around the globe.
The UK is among the best countries in the world when it comes to testing for the genomes found in the new strand of the virus, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
It means it is possible the mutation did not originate in the UK and that it was merely the first country to detect it.
However the cases in Denmark and Australia are believed to have been imported from Britain.
In Australia, the new strain was found in two people who had arrived to New South Wales from the UK.
EU to advise on bloc-wide approach
The EU is now attempting to create a bloc-wide policy on arrivals from Britain.
Almost every EU country is blocking travellers from the country but the European Commission said Tuesday that it will propose for all countries to lift blanket travel bans and allow for essential travel to resume.
It will also advise that lorry drivers and other transport workers be exempt from all travel restrictions and mandatory testing.
The recommendation, which will be put to all EU ambassadors today, will also advise that member states allow residents and citizens to return as long as they provide a negative PCR test.
However all states will have the right to ignore the advice of the European Commission and continue with their own policies.
Vaccine ‘will still be effective’
Meanwhile, BioNtech, the company which worked to develop the Pfizer vaccine, said today that its jab will be effective against the new strand.
“We are going to perform tests,” said president of the German lab Ugur Sahin, “but we are sure that our vaccine will be effective.”
He added: “In the past we have tested against 20 variants of the virus with different types of mutations and the result was always positive.”