Chile records first case of British variant of coronavirus: health ministry

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Santiago
Healthcare workers prepare to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Posta Central hospital in Santiago, Chile December 24, 2020.
REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

By Dave Sherwood and Fabian Cambero

Chile said on Tuesday it had recorded its first case of the British variant of coronavirus, prompting health authorities to reinstate a mandatory quarantine period for all visitors entering the South American nation from abroad.

The variant, which could be up to 70% more transmissible, has spread rapidly from Britain, where it was first identified, to countries across the globe, including Pakistan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and Israel, among others.

Chilean Undersecretary of Health Paula Daza said a Chilean woman who returned to her home country on Dec. 22 had tested positive for the variant. She had traveled to London to visit family.

Once in Chile, she boarded another plane to the south-central city of Temuco. Her movements prompted a scramble among health authorities in Chile to track down those she may have contacted during her journey.

Daza said the woman was asymptomatic, in quarantine and in good health.

Her arrival, however, prompted authorities to mandate a 10-day quarantine for all visitors to Chile, beginning Dec. 31. Travelers may take a PCR test beginning on day seven of the quarantine period. If negative, they would be released from quarantine, Daza said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is not enough information to determine whether the new variants could undermine vaccines being rolled out internationally.

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