COVID-19: Coronavirus variant confirmed in Norway on island of Madeira after Canada also declares cases

·3-min read

The new variant of coronavirus that is spreading through Britain has been detected in Norway and on the Portuguese island of Madeira.

It follows several countries in reporting cases of the mutation, listed as VUI-202012/01, first spotted in the UK and thought to be up to 70% more transmissible - meaning it can spread much faster.

Authorities in Madeira have not said how many people are infected, but confirmed it had been "detected in travellers who arrived there from the United Kingdom".

Norway also discovered the mutation in two people who had arrived there from the UK.

Dozens of countries around the world have placed restrictions on travellers from the UK since the variant was identified in southeast England.

Canada has also added itself to the list of nations that have found the variant, after it discovered two people with the infection in Ontario.

The cases were a couple in the south of the province with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contact.

Japan also said it had reported its first cases of the fast-spreading variant, including a man who had visited the UK and one of his family members.

Sweden has reported a case in a traveller from the UK who fell ill upon arrival and later tested positive for the variant, before going into isolation.

A case in France is a French citizen who lives in England and had left London for Tours on 19 December. He is currently self-isolating at home and is said to be doing fine.

Spain also reported its first case of the variant on Saturday, although no further details have yet been revealed.

France imposed some of the strictest travel restrictions on UK travellers, preventing hauliers from crossing the Channel in the run-up to Christmas and causing chaos at the Port of Dover.

On Tuesday evening, the UK and French governments reached an agreement allowing rail, air and sea services to resume for French citizens or residents, or for urgent reasons such as hauliers transporting goods.

They are now allowed to cross the border if they have a negative coronavirus test.

However, the case discovered by French health authorities entered France before the travel ban was imposed.

Earlier this week, French health minister Olivier Veran admitted it was "entirely possible" the new variant was already circulating in the country, despite officials having found no evidence at the time.

Spain also banned entrants from the UK from Tuesday this week, although Spanish nationals were allowed to return, with the move having been brought in just two days before Christmas.

Cases of the new variant have also been confirmed in Denmark, Italy, Gibraltar, the Netherlands and Australia.

While it is believed to spread faster, there is no evidence so far that the new variant causes more serious illness or is able to evade vaccines - the first of which has started to arrive in several European countries.

Greece, Germany, Spain and Italy are among those that have taken deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, and 10,000 doses will arrive in Ireland ahead of its vaccination programme beginning on Wednesday.

European countries have started taking deliveries after the jab was approved by the European Medicines Agency.