Saudi Arabia has not detected the new mutated strain of COVID-19 that seems to have originated in the United Kingdom and spread to other European countries, the spokesperson for the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health Dr. Mohammed al-Abd al-Ali said on Monday.
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“There is no truth to what is being circulated about new cases of the mutated coronavirus in the Kingdom, and it has not been detected in the Kingdom as of yet. Ongoing studies are examining the genetic sequence of the virus,” al-Abd al-Ali said on Twitter.
Saudi Arabia on Monday announced it would be suspending all commercial flights and entry into the country through land and sea ports for a week as a precautionary measure following reports of the new mutated strain.
Thirty-four passengers arriving in Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport from Holland on Monday night tested negative for COVID-19 and have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days as an additional precautionary measure, according to the health ministry.
The mutated virus was first detected in the UK in September. The Netherlands, Italy, and Australia reported cases linked to the new strain in early and mid-December.
The new variant, which experts say could be up to 70 percent more transmissible than previously dominant strains of the disease, has resulted in increased hospitalization rates. So far, there is no indication that the new strain is more deadly than the original strain, but further monitoring is needed, the BBC reported.
The vaccine is expected to work against the new strain as well.
Dozens of European countries, as well as Kuwait and Oman, have joined Saudi Arabia in halting international travel or banning flights to the United Kingdom.