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The study, which is due to be published on Thursday and was not peer-reviewed, describes how an international team of scientists closely monitored the coronavirus through its genetic mutations.
Each variant of the coronavirus has its own genetic signature, which means it can be traced back to the place where it first appeared.
It is said that a new variant of the disease, identified as 20A.EU1 by researchers from Switzerland and Spain, was first observed in Spain in June. The new variant has been registered in Spain since July with frequencies of over 40%, according to the study.
In other countries, the new variant of the coronavirus rose from “very low” levels before July 15 to 40% to 70% in Switzerland, Ireland and the United Kingdom in September. It was also found to be common in Norway, Latvia, the Netherlands, and France.
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There was also no data to assess the severity of the disease and although 20A.EU1 dominated in some countries, it had not gained the upper hand everywhere and different variants of the coronavirus “continue to circulate across Europe”.
The authors of the study included researchers from the University of Basel, the Biomedical Institute of Valencia and the University of Valencia, among others.
What are the effects?
It also raises questions about whether a recent surge in the number of newly reported Covid-19 infections in the region could have been limited by stricter travel measures and improved screening at airports and other transport hubs.
“It is currently unclear whether this variant is spreading due to a transmission advantage of the virus or whether a high incidence in Spain, followed by spread by tourists, is sufficient to explain the rapid increase in several countries,” the study says.
A wave of new coronavirus cases in Europe has caused some countries to take new lockdown measures this winter.
Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Wednesday a “slight lockdown” with bars, restaurants, fitness studios, cinemas and theaters to be closed from next week.
In a similar move, French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed a second nationwide lockdown from Friday that only schools and factories were supposed to remain open – in contrast to March, when these were also closed.
Europe has registered nearly 10 million cases of the coronavirus with 273,678 deaths, according to the WHO.
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