|[Published: Tuesday January 19 2021]
New Covid strain detected among 35 patients in German ski town
BERLIN, 19 Jan. - (ANA) - A new variant of coronavirus has reportedly been identified among at least 35 hospital patients in Bavaria, Germany.
Local news outlets first reported on Monday that an unknown variant of Covid-19 had been discovered at the clinic in the ski town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in south-east Germany.
The new strain was found in 35 of 73 newly-infected people at the hospital, the clinic’s deputy medical director, Clemens Stockklausner confirmed in a press conference later in the day.
Stockklausner also reportedly confirmed that the new variant is neither the British or South African identified strains.
He said that samples are now being examined at the Charite hospital in Berlin.
According to media outlets, he said there is no need to panic, adding: "We have to wait for the complete sequencing. We cannot say at all at the moment whether this (mutation) has any clinical relevance.”
Stockklausner said it is not yet known whether the variant is more contagious or more aggressive than other strains of the virus.
It is also unclear whether Germany has alerted the World Health Organization about the potential new strain but Yahoo has contacted WHO and the country’s health ministry for comment.
It comes as several new variants have emerged across the world in recent weeks, prompting new lockdown restrictions in European countries. The UK, South Africa, the US and Brazil have all detected new Covid strains.
The British-identified variant is 70% more transmissible than the original strain and has fuelled a devastating second wave in the UK.
In Germany this week, senior politicians have been calling for tighter measures to slow the spread of these new, more infectious variants, including more health checks for cross-border commuters and intensified gene sequencing of virus samples.
In future, health labs will have to sequence 5% of the samples they collect when screening for the coronavirus to check if they match more virulent variants first identified in the UK and South Africa, or if new mutations were emerging in Germany.
National and regional leaders are due to meet on Tuesday to decide on new measures. “We still have a big risk ... that is the risk of mutation,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference, calling for a joint European response.
New coronavirus infections have been decreasing in recent days and the occupancy of intensive care beds by Covid-19 patients has declined by 10-15%, according to federal health minister Jens Spahn, who said intensified testing of cross-border commuters should be introduced to help prevent new variants entering Germany.
German vice-chancellor Olaf Scholz called for an extension and tightening of lockdown measures that are due to expire on 31 January.
Stricter requirements for companies to allow staff to work from home, compulsory wearing of heavy duty FFP2 masks in certain areas, restrictions on public transport and the introduction of curfews are also being debated.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 7,141 to 2.04 million, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.
That was down by more than 5,000 from a week earlier, but daily numbers from Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate were incomplete, the RKI said.
The reported death toll rose by 214 to 46,633. - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/19 January 2021 - - -