Health officials in the Republic of Cyprus have confirmed a new strain of the coronavirus found in the UK late last year has also been found on the island, with experts saying the new variant has a much higher infection rate.
According to local media, a health ministry statement said 19 samples infected with COVID-19, taken from travelers who flew from the United Kingdom to the island between 6 and 20 December, had been sent for additional special testing, with results showing 12 of them had a new variant.
The more contagious COVID-19 variant is known as SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 (Variant of Concern, year 2020, month 12, variant 01). It was first identified in the UK back in October and continued to crop up across the country, with British authorities reporting the mutation to the World Health Organization three weeks ago.
The emergence of this particular Covid-19 strain prompted dozens of nations to impose travel restrictions on the UK around mid-December, including Cyprus where hotel quarantine for British arrivals was required with some exceptions.
Critics on the island had raised concerns recently over the efficiency and consistency of some measures against the spread of the virus, while officials maintained that a recent vaccination programme offered a glimmer of hope in the fight against the pandemic.
But both officials and health experts maintained that members of the public should remain vigilant and follow all protocols to minimize the risk of infection.