Roundup: UK coronavirus strain detected in Europe ahead of vaccine rollout
Madrid Desk, Dec 26 (efe-epa).- Deliveries of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were distributed across the European Union on Saturday ahead of a unified rollout by member states just as Spain and France confirmed their first cases of the contagious British coronavirus variant.
Meanwhile, Germans awoke to a tightened lockdown after a slight reprieve for Christmas Day as infection rates spiral in the country.
Officials in the Spanish capital Madrid on Saturday said they had detected four cases of the mutated virus first detected in England, adding that three other cases were being investigated.
The patients in question are linked to people who had recently returned to Spain from the United Kingdom, according to the regional deputy health minister Antonio Zapatero.
The first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arrived in Spain on Saturday morning and the first jabs are to be administered Sunday.
Following other European nations, Spain temporarily halted air traffic coming in from the UK, although citizens and foreign residents were exempted from the rules.
The first case of the British coronavirus variant has also been confirmed in France. It was traced to a French resident of the UK who tested positive while in the city of Tours, south of Paris.
The British variant, which has become the dominant variant in London and parts of south, southeastern and eastern England, is thought to be more contagious but not more dangerous than the original strain of the Covid-19 causing virus.
The patient had arrived in France via the Channel Tunnel on Saturday last week, the same day UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tougher coronavirus measures due to the new variant.
The patient tested positive for Covid-19 at a hospital in Tours.
He is now isolating at home and is asymptomatic. French authorities are tracing the contacts of the patient.
France closed its borders with the UK after Johnson’s government confirmed the new variant was spreading quickly through parts of England.
As a result, thousands of trucks became trapped on both sides of the English Channel and only began to clear once France decided to reopen the border on the condition of a negative PCR test.
The British variant has also been detected in Italy, Germany and Gibraltar.
France is set to distribute 19,200 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Sunday.
Germany on Saturday bid farewell to a light reprieve in the lockdown over Christmas, which had allowed for limited family gatherings for three days.
Tough restrictions on social life are to come back into force in a bid to contain record daily case rises and deaths.