Health officials are investigating a mutation found in 35 people in the southern state of Bavaria.
Health officials in Germany are investigating a new strain of coronavirus found in southern Germany.
The development comes amid growing global concern over emerging virus variants, at least two of which – one first found in the UK and the other originally recorded in South Africa – are accelerating the spread of the virus. pandemic.
The new variant was detected in 35 people on Monday in a hospital in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in southern Germany, after 73 patients and staff at the Bavarian facility tested positive for COVID-19 .
Hospital officials have confirmed that the mutation is different from the two highly infectious mutations of concern.
Deputy medical director Clemens Stockklausner told reporters it was not yet clear whether the new strain in Germany was more deadly or infectious.
“We cannot at all say at the moment whether this [mutation] has clinical relevance, ”he said. “We have to wait for full sequencing.”
Samples of the variant have been sent to Charite Hospital in the capital, Berlin, for further examination, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.
German leaders consider extending lockdown
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday that new measures were needed to slow the spread of new, more infectious strains, including intensified genetic sequencing of virus samples.
Spahn told reporters in Berlin he was ordering labs to sequence the genome of 5% of the positive samples they collect when testing for coronavirus, to check whether they match the strains first identified in the UK and in South Africa, or if new variants emerge in Germany.
He also said intensified testing on cross-border commuters should be introduced to help prevent new strains from entering Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state prime ministers are due to meet on Tuesday to decide on new measures to contain the pandemic, which has devastated Europe’s largest economy. They are expected to extend the country’s ongoing coronavirus lockdown.
The country has closed schools, non-essential stores, bars, restaurants, and leisure and cultural facilities under the lockdown, which has been gradually tightened since early November. The measures also prohibit people from meeting more than one other person from another household.
Amid the restrictions, the rate of coronavirus infections has slowed in recent days and the occupancy of intensive care beds by COVID-19 patients has fallen by 10 to 15 percent, according to Spahn.
“The numbers (of infection) seem to be decreasing, which is good, but we are still far from where we want to be,” he told German broadcaster ARD on Monday.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide rose from 7,141 on Monday to 2.04 million, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for Infectious Diseases.
That was down by more than 5,000 from the previous week, but the daily figures for the states of Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate were incomplete, the RKI said.
The reported death toll increased from 214 to 46,633.