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A new mutant variant of coronavirus has been discovered in Germany.
Officials in Bavaria say it is distinct from the British and South African variants which have been spreading across the globe.
It has been detected in 35 patients in hospitals in the region, reports the Sun.
Scientists have not yet determined whether it is more deadly or more infectious than other variants in circulation – such as the UK variant, named B-117 which is more than 70 per cent more transmissible than other strains.
The B-117 variant, first found in the south of England in September, has contributed to the UK's third national lockdown.
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(Image: DPA Picture Alliance)
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While the South African variant, reported by Health Secretary Matt Hancock on December 23, has seen all flights to the country stopped.
Meanwhile two Brazilian variants have seen the UK impose a travel ban on 19 countries, the majority of which are in South America.
Local media in Bavaria a first reported the new strain on Monday, where it was detected in 35 patients in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in the southeast of Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Governing Mayor of Berlin attend a video conference with the Prime Ministers of the federal states to discuss new measures to bring down the numbers of Covid-19 infections
(Image: Bundesregierung via Getty Images)
In one hospital, 35 people have the new variant out of 73 newly infected patients.
Scientists at the Charité university hospital in Berlin are examining the samples.
The hospital’s deputy medical director Clemens Stockklausne said: "At the moment we have discovered a small point mutation … and it is absolutely not clear whether it will be of clinical relevance.
“We have to wait for the complete sequencing.”
A sign indicating that face masks are mandatory at the entrance of the Boettcherstrasse, a normally crowded landmark, in the city centre of Bremen, northern Germany
(Image: FOCKE STRANGMANN/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
Scientists have warned that there are more mutated strains of Coronavirus on their way following a surge of 230 million global cases a day.
Researchers say that the more people that catch the virus, the more opportunity it has to evolve – leading to more infectious variants.
In the US alone three homegrown strains have been spotted, less than 24 hours apart.
Trevor Bedford, a scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre, posted a thread on Twitter outlining his thesis.
A lone pedestrian walks past the concert hall at Gendarmenmarkt that is illuminated in red to draw attention to the plight of the cultural institutions in Berlin amid the pandemic
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
The expert said: "After 10 months of relative quiescence we've started to see some striking evolution of SARS-CoV-2 with a repeated evolutionary pattern in the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern emerging from the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
"…My (highly speculative!) hypothesis is that the emergence of these variant viruses arises in cases of chronic infection during which the immune system places great pressure on the virus to escape immunity and the virus does so by getting really good at getting into cells."
He speculated that weaker immune systems allow the virus to linger, meaning that it has to be fought over and over, allowing it to evolve.
As a result of lingering in chronic patients, the virus mutates and becomes even more infectious than it was before.
Marielotte Kilian, 87, and Richard Kilian, 86, from Wiesbaden-Schierstein receive their Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccination from Fenna Martin on the opening day of a vaccination center at the Congress Center in Wiesbaden, Germany January 19
(Image: via REUTERS)
"Again, this hypothesis is highly speculative at this point, but separately, the fact that we've observed 3 variants of concern emerge since September suggests that there are likely more to come," he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers agreed today to extend a lockdown for most shops and schools until Feb. 14 as part of a package of steps to try to rein in the coronavirus.
They also agreed to mandate medical masks for passengers on public transport, the sources familiar with the ongoing discussions said. The existing lockdown runs until Jan. 31.
New infections have been decreasing in recent days and pressure on intensive care units has eased slightly, but virologists are worried about the possible spread of more infectious variants of the virus.
A lone cyclist rides past closed shops on illuminated and empty Friedrichstrasse on January 19, 2021 in Berlin
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
The federal government has proposed that aid for companies should be improved due to the extension, a draft of the resolution to be discussed showed. The federal government would also create a working group to draw up a blueprint for a safe and fair opening strategy, said the draft.
"The infection numbers have been going down for several weeks, or stagnating, and that's good," Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller told German television. "Now we are facing a very aggressive mutation that we have to respond to."
He said one focus would be boosting working from home.
"There is much more room for manoeuvre," said Mueller, adding states aimed to get employees to have to justify why employees had to travel to work.
Leaders would also discuss curfews, already in place in some states, but it was unlikely they would be imposed everywhere, he said.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases had risen by 11,369 to 2.05 million, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The death toll was up 989