Russia Confirms First Case of New U.K. Virus Strain

Moscow on Sunday confirmed its first case of the new U.K. coronavirus strain, despite an earlier decision by officials to suspend flights from Britain to stop the mutation reaching Russia.

One person returning to Russia from the U.K. was found to have been infected with the new strain, the head of Russia’s health regulator Rospotrebnadzor told state-run television.

Watchdog head Anna Popova did not specify when the individual tested positive for coronavirus or any other circumstances surrounding the discovery.

The B117 coronavirus strain is thought to have first emerged in southeastern England late last year, and has since been detected in dozens of countries around the world.

Officials in Moscow temporarily suspended flights to and from the U.K. in December, following a similar move by dozens of other countries in the wake of the emergence of the new strain.

Russia has one of the highest infection rates in the world and officials on Sunday confirmed a total of nearly 3.5 million cases.

Health officials last month admitted the country’s virus toll was much higher than previously reported, making Russia the third-worst hit globally.

The Kremlin has placed its hope on the homegrown Sputnik V vaccine to counter the pandemic instead of the return to lockdown measures being imposed in many other European countries.

Algeria, Palestine Greenlight Russia’s Coronavirus Vaccine

Algeria and the State of Palestine have approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund marketing the jab announced this week.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) CEO Kirill Dmitriyev said that the countries are the first African and Middle Eastern nations to issue emergency-use authorization approvals.

Dmitriyev said deliveries to Palestine, via Russia’s production partners in India, China and South Korea, will begin sometime before April. He also said Algeria will receive Sputnik V under the same international partnership mechanism but did not provide a timetable for deliveries.

Russia announced Monday that 1.5 million people around the world had received Sputnik as part of an initiative Kremlin critics have described as a geopolitical push.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said this month that more than 800,000 Russians had received Sputnik V.

Russia became the first country last August to register a vaccine, months ahead of Western competitors. Moscow has since boasted of more than 1 billion orders for the jab abroad.

An adviser to Russia’s health minister said over the weekend that consultations with the World Health Organization for the use of Sputnik V in emergency situations would begin Jan. 20.

RDIF’s Dmitriyev also announced Monday that it is financing clinical trials of a “light,” one-dose version of the two-dose jab as a stopgap for countries facing high numbers of Covid-19 infections.

The vaccine’s developers have said both doses confer an efficacy of more than 90%.

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