Contamination with the new variant of the coronavirus circulating in the United Kingdom is spreading in Europe. Cases, for the moment isolated for the most part, were detected this Saturday in Canada and Sweden, after others in Denmark, Germany, Lebanon and Japan. Four first cases have also been reported in Spain and a dozen in Italy.
France is not spared since a case carrying what is called “variant VOC 202012/01” was reported Friday in Tours (Indre-et-Loire). It is about a man, of French nationality and residing in England, details the General Directorate of Health. He arrived “from London on December 19” and was “taken care of” at the hospital two days later and tested positive but, asymptomatic, “is doing well” and has remained in isolation since at his home.
“50% to 74%” more contagious
This new strain carries in particular a mutation, called N501Y, in the protein of the “spike” of the coronavirus, the small point which allows the virus to attach to human cells before infecting them. Its sudden spread, as Europe is just starting its vaccination campaign, worries health authorities because of these characteristics.
This mutant would indeed be much more contagious than the virus which strikes for a year now. According to a study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), it is “50% to 74%” more contagious than its predecessors, raising fears of more hospitalizations and deaths in 2021 than in 2020.
On the other hand, in the opinion of the principal adviser of the American government program of vaccination, Moncef Slaoui, this mutation does not make the virus “more pathogenic”, that is to say it does not cause a more serious form of disease.
For now, according to Emer Cooke, director general of the European Medicines Agency, “there is no evidence” suggesting that the Pfizer vaccine deployed this Sunday “is not effective against the new variant”.
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