British virus strain spreading rapidly in Germany, minister warns

By Rachel More, dpa
Berlin (dpa) – A more infectious strain of the coronavirus first discovered in Britain is spreading rapidly in Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn warned in Berlin on Wednesday.

The variant, known by the scientific name B117, now accounts for over 22 per cent of infections in the country, as opposed to almost 6 per cent less than two weeks ago, Spahn said, citing data from the nation’s agency for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

“We must assume that the variant could soon become dominant here too,” the minister told reporters.

The percentage of cases resulting from that strain is said to be doubling every week.

Another 1.5 per cent of cases are caused by the South African mutation, Spahn added.

The German government recently boosted resources to laboratories for sequencing work in order to get a clearer picture of the spread of coronavirus variants in the country.

Germany is currently under a months-long lockdown that has brought down infection rates considerably this year.

However, Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top government officials have said it is too early to ease restrictions, pointing to the threat posed by more dangerous coronavirus mutations.

Meanwhile, Germany has introduced tough border restrictions targeting over a dozen countries and regions where dangerous variants of the virus are believed to be widespread.

Those include Britain, Portugal, Brazil and South Africa, as well as neighbouring Czech Republic and the Austrian region of Tyrol.

These rules amount to an entry ban for the vast majority of people from those places, with exceptions for German nationals and foreign residents in Germany, as well as some key workers and hauliers.

The British virus variant is estimated to be at least 35 per cent more contagious than the novel coronavirus.


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