New Covid-19 Strain Found in China

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New Covid-19 Strain Found in China

A man received a coronavirus test in Shenyang, China, on Thursday.

Photo: str/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The highly contagious new strain of Covid-19 discovered recently in the U.K. has now reached China, according to researchers there.

Chinese researchers detected the new strain in a woman who was tested upon arrival at an airport in Shanghai on Dec. 14 after a flight from the U.K., according to an official publication dated Wednesday.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s publication CCDC Weekly said the case was “the first imported (U.K.) variant in China and poses a great potential threat to the prevention and control of COVID-19 in China.”

CCDC Weekly said the 23-year-old woman had tested negative for Covid-19 two days before her flight to China. Later sequencing of her positive test revealed it was different from a small outbreak of cases in Shanghai in November and the strains from Wuhan, where Covid-19 was first found.

The patient’s case of Covid-19 was diagnosed as mild, the paper said, noting that several control measures were taken to isolate the woman and identify those who sat near her or dealt with her on the flight.

News of the new strain’s spread to China comes a year after disease-control authorities in the central city of Wuhan issued an internal notice warning of the emergence of pneumonia patients, detection of what was later named Covid-19. While life is now back to normal in most of China, the country has experienced new clusters of the disease while avoiding the strict lockdowns from earlier in the year.

Late Wednesday, China’s top regulatory agency approved mass use of a vaccine produced by a Beijing-based drug-development unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group Co., known more commonly as Sinopharm. 

In a New Year’s address on Thursday, President Xi Jinping credited China’s national spirit in response to the outbreak, which by official numbers has recorded almost 96,000 cases and 4,782 deaths. “We overcame the impact of the pandemic, and made great achievements in coordinating prevention and control and in economic and social development,” he said.

Reuters first reported the notice about the U.K. strain’s detection in China. The CCDC Weekly paper, by authors affiliated with China’s top disease-prevention agencies, has received scant coverage in major Chinese state media.

This week, health officials said the new strain was first detected in the U.S. in a man in Colorado.

The strain was detected in the U.K. in September and by early December it was responsible for more than 60% of the new cases in London, scientists there said. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Dec. 19 imposed fresh lockdowns in the country citing its easier transmission, which prompted several other countries to suspend commercial flights to London. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Dec. 24 that China was following other countries in suspending flights from the U.K.

Write to James T. Areddy at james.areddy@wsj.com

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