Coronavirus: Chinese student found to have new variant on return from Britain

Kristin Huang, South China Morning Post

Posted at Jan 04 2021 02:23 PM

A Chinese student who returned home last month after studying in the UK has been confirmed as having the new strain of the coronavirus first detected in Britain.

The 18-year-old male, who returned home to Guangzhou, the capital of south China’s Guangdong province, on December 4, is the second Chinese to contract the B.1.1.7 variant after studying in Britain, Guangzhou Daily reported on Sunday.

The discovery was made after the provincial disease control and prevention centre ran gene-sequencing tests on all throat swab samples it had collected since September, the report said.

The man, who was not named, produced a negative result when tested for the coronavirus on arrival at the Chinese border, but a subsequent test two weeks later while he was in quarantine came back positive.

As of Sunday, he was still being monitored at Guangzhou No 8 People’s Hospital, but was said to have only mild symptoms, the report said, adding that health officials would continue to check the gene sequencing of the samples.

According to scientists, the new coronavirus variant is 40-70 per cent more transmissible than earlier forms. Since its discovery on December 8 it has been reported in more than 30 countries around the world, and more than 40 nations have banned all travellers from Britain as a precaution.

The first infection with the new variant in China was a 23-year-old woman who tested positive on December 14 on her return to Shanghai after studying in Britain. The new strain was confirmed 10 days later.

According to the health bulletin China CDC Weekly, the new variant “poses a great potential threat to the prevention and control of Covid-19 in China”.

However, Shanghai-based infectious disease expert Zhang Wenhong urged the public not to panic.

“There is nothing special about the case,” he said. “The patient’s symptoms were so mild that it did not even need my attention.”

China has largely brought the coronavirus outbreak under control within its borders, but reported 24 new cases – 16 of them imported – on the same day the second new variant case was confirmed.

The eight local cases were all reported in the north of the country, with four in Heilongjiang province, two in Liaoning, one in Beijing and one in Hebei.