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2021-01-01 08:35:00

China has reported the first known case of the more contagious strain of COVID-19 that originally began circulating in the United Kingdom, though the patient has been under quarantine since she arrived in Shanghai two weeks ago. 

Researchers at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday in a weekly report that the new variant of the novel coronavirus was detected in a 23-year-old student who flew to Shanghai from the U.K. on Dec. 14.

The patient was taken to a quarantine facility immediately after she stepped off the plane, a measure China has imposed on all inbound international passengers regardless of their COVID-19 status during the pandemic.

The woman, diagnosed as a mild case as of Wednesday, has not been out and about in the city, according to the report.

On Dec. 24, laboratory work confirmed that the coronavirus strain contracted by the student was the new variant, known as B.1.1.7. The new strain carries genetic mutations that could make the virus 70% more contagious than other known strains.

The B.1.1.7 outbreak forced the U.K. government to impose stricter lockdown measures on London and other cities in southeastern England before Christmas Day, with several countries responding by banning travel from the U.K. Despite these measures, more than a dozen countries have since reported patients being infected by the new variant.

So far, there is no evidence that the new COVID-19 variant causes more severe symptoms, or that it can evade current vaccines.   

The patient in China tested negative for the virus two days before her departure from the U.K, the report said. She told health officials she was unsure how she had been infected, but noted that she had recently gone running without wearing a mask and had also removed her mask to eat and drink while waiting to board her flight from the U.K.

According to the report, Shanghai authorities have undertaken several control measures, including contact tracing and disinfection. So far, authorities have not reported other connected cases.

Editor: Dominic Morgan.

(Header image: Passengers wait at St. Pancras International Airport, in London, Dec. 23, 2020. Hannah McKay/Reuters via Xinhua)