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Opinion

Covid-19 updates: Canada and Sweden add first cases of a new variant, UK sees tougher measures: coronavirus crisis

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The new variant (B117) of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) identified in the United Kingdom (UK) in mid-December with a transmission rate of 70 percent is spreading rapidly around the world. Canada and Sweden have already reported the first cases of the variant. Many countries have tightened their border restrictions to temporarily ban or control passengers coming from the UK. Meanwhile, the UK, which is the epicenter of the new variant of the coronavirus, has ordered the closure of shops selling non-essentials, gyms and swimming pools and has banned indoor home mixing.

Here are the latest updates on the new Covid-19 variant:

1. The Canadian province of Ontario reported on Saturday the first two cases of the new Covid-19 variant detected in the United Kingdom. According to CBS New, the two people, who are a couple, have no known travel history or high-risk contacts and are currently in self-isolation. Ontario health authorities have issued a statement urging all residents of the province to stay home as much as possible and follow all protocols, including lockdown measures starting today.

2. In India, the central government’s National Task Force said on Saturday that five percent of positive cases in all states and union territories will be tested for whole genome sequencing, adding that this is being done in view of the new Covid-19 strain detected in the UK. A statement issued by the Union Ministry of Health added that more than 50 samples from UK returnees are being sequenced in designated laboratories.

3. Sweden identified the first case of the new variant after a person from the United Kingdom arrived in Södermanland county to celebrate Christmas. Signar Makitalo, the region’s infection prevention physician, said there is a possibility that more people have become infected with the variant. The health agency has ordered all those in Sweden who traveled from the UK after December 12 to be tested for Covid-19.

Four. Millions of UK residents are witnessing tougher coronavirus measures since Saturday, with Northern Ireland and Scotland demanding stricter restrictions to stop the spread of the new variant of the virus. People placed under England’s highest level of restrictions, Level 4, rose by 6 million on Saturday to 24 million in total. Mixing households indoors is prohibited and only essential travel is allowed. On the other hand, stores that sell non-essential products, gyms and swimming pools, lounges are ordered to close and restaurants can only do takeout.

5. After reporting on Friday the first case of the UK variant, the Japanese government said it would temporarily ban non-resident foreign nationals and has further tightened border restrictions. The ban will take effect on December 28 and will run until January, the government said in a statement. “Japanese citizens and foreign residents will be allowed to enter, but must show proof of a negative coronavirus test 72 hours before departing for Japan and must remain in quarantine for two weeks after arrival,” the statement added.

(With contributions from the agency)

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