Indian COVID variant found in Switzerland: health authority

A colored scanning electron microscope image of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Image Credit: NIAID

A first case of the COVID-19 variant, which is contributing to the exploding outbreak in India, was discovered in Switzerland, the health authority said on Saturday.

“The first case of the Indian variant of COVID-19 was discovered in Switzerland,” said the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) in a tweet.

The virus variant was found in “a passenger who came to Switzerland after a transit through a European airport”.

“The person changed flights in a European country before continuing to Switzerland,” spokesman Daniel Dauwalder told AFP in an email, adding that the positive sample was collected in March in the northern canton of Solothurn.

The news comes after Belgian authorities said Thursday a group of 20 Indian nursing students who had traveled from Paris tested positive for the country’s variant.

India’s health system, meanwhile, is buckling under a new wave of infections, partly due to the new “double mutant” variant known as B.1.617.

On Saturday, India reported a record number of cases and deaths from COVID-19 on a daily basis as the government struggles to provide adequate oxygen to overwhelmed hospitals.

According to official information, a total of almost 190,000 people have died of coronavirus in India.

Countries were on high alert for the variant as several flights from India were suspended.

The BAG said it was discussing whether to put India on the red list of high risk countries.

People who come from countries on the Swiss Red List have to be quarantined for 10 days.

Dauwalder pointed out, however, that India was already on a separate list of the State Secretariat for Migration, so that initially in most cases only Swiss citizens and residents are allowed to enter Switzerland after a stay in India.

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