Switzerland documents five cases of UK virus variant, two of South African variant

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Switzerland has documented five cases of a coronavirus variant from Britain and two cases of a South African variant, a Swiss health ministry official said on Tuesday, adding he anticipates more cases of these faster-spreading mutations will emerge.

Patrick Mathys, the health ministry’s crisis management section leader, also said the Swiss supply of COVID-19 shots will be limited until more vaccines are approved by the nation’s regulator, likely next year.

Switzerland is the latest nation to record variant cases, as country after country reports similar infections, prompting some nations to ban travel to Great Britain and South Africa amid fears a more-virulent virus could exacerbate strapped health care systems.

“Until now, there’s no evidence that these strains are spreading in large numbers in Switzerland,” Mathys said, of the variants. “But it would be an illusion to think that these infections, which have been confirmed in the laboratory, are the only ones that exist in Switzerland. We have to expect that we’ll find more, and it’s probable that there has already been transmission.”

One of the cases detected in Switzerland is a resident of neighboring France, Mathys said.

Switzerland recorded 4,197 new infections since Monday, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 442,481, more than 5% of the population.

A further 131 people died, bringing COVID-19 fatalities to 6,909.

Switzerland has so far received 107,000 doses of Pfizer and German partner BioNTech’s vaccine and is targeting shots at older nursing home residents and medical workers.

The country expects to get 250,000 monthly doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but boosting deliveries beyond that depends on the approval of additional shots from Moderna and AstraZeneca now under review.

“We have to make do with what we have, for now” Mathys said. “We can’t magically make shots from thin air.”