China has detected its first case of a highly infectious new variant of Covid-19 in the southern province of Guangdong.
The provincial centre for disease control and prevention (CDC) found the variant known as B1525, which was first detected in Nigeria, in two people who had recently arrived from Britain, according to an announcement on Sunday.
The two people were identified as asymptomatic carriers on February 21 and 22 while quarantined and have been put under observation in hospital.
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There is no information on whether the two travelled together.
The provincial CDC started genetic sequencing on their samples on March 5 and confirmed the variant last Friday.
“There is research that shows the Nigerian variant makes the coronavirus more infectious, and may more easily help the virus evade neutralising antibodies and that recovered people can be infected again,” according to the Guangdong CDC statement.
The mutation was first detected by genome sequence in mid-December last year in Nigeria but it soon reached 26 other countries, including Denmark, Australia and the United States, according to the Guangdong CDC.
Two other variants, first detected in Britain and South Africa respectively, have previously been found in travellers arriving in China.
“The imported cases which showed a mutated variant were all found through genetic sequencing as a result of the quick virus monitoring system of the Guangdong province. These cases have all been in quarantine and have low risk of being transmitted locally,” the Guangdong CDC said.
The discovery of new variants of the coronavirus have also raised concerns about whether the current vaccines will prove effective against them.
Scientists are still studying the new strains, including the Nigerian one, to determine the likelihood of them becoming the dominant strain and whether the available vaccines are suitable.
On Saturday, China has recorded 20 imported coronavirus infections, with four found in Shanghai, two in Fujian province, and one each in Inner Mongolia, Jiangsu, Guangdong and Shaanxi.
As of Sunday, there were 183 confirmed coronavirus patients in China, 179 of whom had come from overseas, according to the latest numbers from the National Health Commission.
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