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Virus Variant From Spain Now Across UK

A new analysis suggests a SARS-CoV-2 strain from Spain accounts for most of the UK COVID-19 cases, the Guardian reports.

Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland analyzed the spread of a SARS-CoV-2 variant, 20A.EU1, which harbors a S:A222V substitution in the spike protein domain, across Europe. As they report in a yet-to-be-peer-reviewed preprint at MedRxiv, the researchers found that the 20A.EU1 variant arose early in the summer of 2020, most likely in Spain, and then increased in frequency across Europe. According to their analysis, the variant appeared in the UK in mid-July then in Switzerland and Ireland, and later, additional spots across Europe.

As the Guardian notes, the timing of the strain's arrival in the UK coincides with when quarantine-free travel to and from Spain was allowed for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

By mid-September, this strain accounted for half of the SARS-CoV-2 infections in Switzerland and England, and about 80 percent of cases in Wales and Scotland, the preprint finds.

Edinburgh University's Devi Sridhar tells the Guardian the findings reveal flaws in the UK virus response. "Numbers were really low and that was our chance to keep them low," she adds. "The virus moves when people move."