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Swiss nursing home hit by British COVID-19 variant outbreak

14 Jan 2021 / 23:22 H.

    ZURICH, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Three-quarters of a nursing home's residents and half its workers have been infected with the coronavirus variant first found in Britain, a Swiss regional government said on Thursday.

    The Italian-speaking canton of Ticino said a series of infections occurred in rapid succession as well as a re-infection. This prompted health officials to conduct genetic sequencing, which confirmed the British variant was circulating.

    "This sweep test had confirmed a rapid spread of the outbreak, with around half the staff and three-quarters of the guests positive, despite the protective measures put in place," the cantonal government said in a statement.

    "The home for the elderly has meanwhile been closed for visits."

    Switzerland has reported dozens of cases of the highly infectious British variant, including in the mountain town of Wengen. There, a single British tourist is thought to have brought the mutated virus into the region, resulting in the cancellation of World Cup ski races this weekend.

    The Ticino government did not release the number of people linked to the nursing home outbreak, or say whether there have been any fatalities or hospitalisations.

    "It is good to remember that the English strain of the virus is not more serious, but more contagious," the canton said. "It therefore requires more intense contact tracking to avoid its spread as much as possible."

    On Wednesday, Switzerland announced stricter measures including store closures in a bid to reduce contacts amid fears that the British and other variants could rapidly spread and overwhelm hospital and healthcare infrastructure. (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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