A US town marooned at the tip of a Canadian peninsula | Nation/World


POINT ROBERTS, Wash. — In 1846, after decades of haggling, American and British diplomats finally agreed on a border between the U.S. Northwest and what would later become Canada.

Following the 49th parallel west from the Rocky Mountains almost to Vancouver Island, the boundary sliced straight across a peninsula that jutted south from Canada, leaving 4.8 square miles on the American side.

Point Roberts, Washington, long prospered as an appendage of Canada. Its economy thrived on sales of gasoline, groceries and alcohol at prices considered a bargain by Canadians, whose frequent visits helped make the border station one of the busiest crossing points between the two countries.

The 1,100 Americans and Canadians who lived here thought nothing of crossing into Canada for work, school or errands or to get to the U.S. mainland.

Then on March 21, 2020, in response to the pandemic, U.S. and Canadian officials abruptly closed the entire border to nonessential travel — squeezing the peninsula like a tourniquet.

How, Point Roberts residents wondered, would they see doctors or pick up prescriptions given that they had no physicians and no pharmacies? How could they get children to school once in-person instruction resumed, given their lack of classes beyond third grade? How would they take pets to the vet?

Many families simply left Point Bob, as people affectionately called the promontory named for Capt. Henry Roberts, a British explorer.

When Brady and Lori Nelson realized their two daughters would not be able to attend their school in Tsawwassen, British Columbia, when it reopened, they moved to Spokane on the Washington mainland, where Brady Nelson grew up.

The relocation meant that he would have to commute an hour by commercial plane to his job flying airliners out of Vancouver International Airport. Real estate was expensive in Canada, and the family preferred living in the United States.

“It was very tough because we left behind my father, who as our daughters’ grandfather was very involved in their life,” he said.

As the population fell below 1,000, the town’s 60 fuel pumps sat mostly idle: Most people had nowhere to drive to.

At the Shell station on Tyee Drive, co-owner Chuck Laird learned to toss pizzas to serve to hungry locals.

Sylvia Schomberg, a 90-year-old resident, played the organ at Trinity Community Lutheran Church until the pandemic shut down services. She said the stillness evoked memories of her childhood on a farm started by her grandparents, who were among the point’s original Icelandic homesteaders.

As the population continued to shrink — it would eventually reach about 800 — Neil Ingermann, the lone sheriff’s deputy in Point Roberts, found himself with little to do.

“I’ve gone a couple of weeks at a time without having a call that had to be handled in person,” he said.

When he took the job in January 2020 — a transfer from Bellingham, Washington, a 50-mile drive through Canada — he never anticipated boredom. Single and 28, Ingermann had joined a health club and a hockey league in suburban Vancouver and anticipated an active social life in the cosmopolitan city.

Now he’s stuck in Point Roberts like everyone else. “I decided I’m not going to re-up for another two years here,” he said.

Lack of business did in the Breakers, a nightclub that had managed to survive even after 1986, when British Columbia lifted its ban on Sunday alcohol sales and thousands of Canadians ended their weekly border treks to drink.

Two restaurants and a wine shop closed. An art gallery and a bike shop shut, as well as a Banner Bank branch. As hundreds of boats pulled out, the point’s marina went up for sale.

The Bald Eagle Golf Club also closed, leaving Superintendent Rick Hoole struggling to mow the 18-hole course. He invited residents who helped him weed bunkers and water greens to join him for a round of golf each Tuesday.

Before the border closed, Best Time RV based about 300 Winnebagos, Jeeps and vans in Point Roberts, renting them mainly to vacationing Europeans who flew into Vancouver.

The location saved on taxes and overhead and dodged a Canadian law that prohibited one-way rentals on cross-border trips — until the border closure.

“It killed us,” said Neal Klass, Best Time’s vice president.

The company hired drivers to move all the vehicles to Las Vegas, getting permission to pass through Canada with other commercial traffic.

The border shutdown also dried up one of Point Roberts’ niche industries: the six parcel depots that enabled Canadians to zip across the border to avoid duties and international charges on items ordered from Amazon and other U.S. retailers.

Thousands of packages have stacked up in the warehouses. Point to Point Parcel manager Beth Calder fielded calls from customers as storage charges mounted.

“Some of them say, ‘Hold onto it; I’ll wait for the border to open,'” she said. “I’m like, ‘Good luck.'”

Last July, Fire Chief Christopher Carleton wrote to President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for relief.

“Point Roberts’ citizens are living under the effective equivalent of house arrest, with only the most restricted access to the basics of life supplied by the world outside,” he wrote.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wrote Trudeau the next month, suggesting that the Canadian government issue permits allowing Point Roberts residents to drive between their town and the mainland United States as long as they didn’t stop in Canada.

But Canadian officials were unmoved. That October, they made exceptions for four other isolated border towns, but they spurned Point Roberts, arguing that its residents “can access the necessities of life within their own community.”

That was largely because the International Marketplace, the only grocery store in Point Roberts, remained open. The owner, Ali Hayton, said she couldn’t bear to close the store, built big enough to handle 8,000 Canadian customers a week, despite losing tens of thousands of dollars a month.

As an emergency measure in August, the Port of Bellingham repurposed a dinner-cruise ship to launch a twice-a-week ferry service to Point Roberts. The trip, two hours each way, is free, but doesn’t solve much because the ship can’t carry cars.

At the border, what qualifies as an essential crossing is open to interpretation by Canadian agents.

In June, when Point Roberts suffered its first fatal car accident since 1972, Canadian firefighters jumped over a concrete barrier to help out.

But it was a different story when Pamela Robertson — a South African who had moved here to be near relatives in Canada, where she was denied residency — came down with a severe toothache.

Twice in April, she drove to the Canadian border station and pleaded with agents to let her through. Her dentist was just minutes away.

“You have to be dying for it to be essential,” she said a guard told her.

On her third attempt, an agent relented. But before seeing the dentist for the abscessed tooth, Robertson, 71, had to quarantine for 14 days.

By the 12th day in her daughter’s suburban Vancouver basement, she said, “the whole side of my face swelled up and I got a fever. He had to extract the two teeth around it.”

When Maggie Mori, who lives in Tsawwassen, received a notice that the water meter at her cabin in Point Roberts was spinning, she called the border station. No luck.

“It just kills my husband that he can’t go down and look at it,” she said. “He’s a plumber.”

The Moris are among hundreds of Canadians who own second homes on the U.S. end of the peninsula and treasure the community for its beaches, bald eagles and views of snow-capped peaks and passing whales.

Maintenance has been a major problem as deer graze in overgrown yards.

Jeanette Meursing and her sister Diane Thomas, who was visiting from South Dakota when the border closed, have been mowing lawns and weed-whacking for about 17 absent Canadian families at no charge. In their 70s, the good Samaritans drew the line at one homeowner’s request for grass seeding.

“We’re not landscapers,” Meursing said. “And when the border opens, we’re sending them all an email: ‘We’re done.'”

When that will happen remains unclear. Trudeau has extended the border restrictions until at least July 21.

While Canadian officials are considering relaxing restrictions for people vaccinated against COVID-19, Trudeau has said the border will not reopen until 75% of Canadians have had at least one dose and 20% are fully inoculated.

As of last week, those figures were 64% and 13%, far behind the United States, where 45% of the population is fully vaccinated.

After Trudeau extended the closure, Hayton announced she was shutting down her supermarket next month.

“From Day 1, I have said that I didn’t want a handout, I just wanted my customers back,” she wrote in a news release. “Now, fully 15 months later and with no end in sight, I am finally fed up and begging for help.”

Residents hope that the prospect of Point Roberts becoming a food desert will leave Canadian authorities no choice but to lift border restrictions.

In the meantime, people find ways around the forced isolation.

Monument Park, which marks the 49th parallel on the western edge of the peninsula, offers a bilateral meeting area.

On a recent sunny day, Teresa Pope, a laid-off package depot manager, and two Point Roberts friends arranged folding chairs on a lawn at the park and sat facing north, their feet grazing the U.S.-Canada line, which was marked by metal stakes.

Across from them on the Canadian side were Kay and Rod Wilen, Pope’s aunt and uncle. Security cameras monitored the get-together, and a pair of U.S. Border Patrol agents came by to chat and check the seating alignment. An international incident was avoided.

Two days later, Julia Carlson, a Washington state notary public, showed up at the park and shook hands across the border with an American couple living in Canada. She stamped documents allowing them to refinance the mortgage on a house they own in the United States.

“If I entered the U.S. to do this, I would have to get a negative COVID test and then spend 14 days in isolation back here in Canada,” said the husband, Khue Le.

The border closure has gotten many people thinking about how little sense it makes that Point Roberts is even part of the United States.

Historians had long assumed that 19th century diplomats had no idea that the border they agreed on in the Oregon Treaty created what geographers call an “exclave,” a piece of a country separated from the whole.

But at a June 15 ceremony marking the 175th anniversary of the pact, Mark Swenson, a tech consultant and amateur historian, announced that he had some news.

“Ladies and gentlemen, that is not true,” he told the small crowd gathered outside the town history museum.

Swenson explained that he had found journals showing that members of a U.S. Navy expedition preparing for the negotiations had spent days surveying the peninsula. He said they viewed the point as strategic territory because of the access it would one day provide to the major city they predicted would be built nearby.

His conclusion, after examining the evidence: “Point Roberts is not a mistake.”

©2021 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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Amanda Holden shares ‘stunning’ bikini snap and fans tip her for one big Hollywood role


It’s getting to that point in the year where a lot of us would love to be on holiday right now, although overseas holidays are looking hard to come by as travel restrictions change regularly.

That’s no problem for big celebs like Amanda Holden though who is currently on her jollies with husband Chris Hughes and daughters Lexi, 15 and Hollie, nine, who she shared a rare snap of earlier this week.

The family are currently sunning it in Portugal but will have to hurry back before June 8 when the Iberian nation goes back onto the amber list if they want to avoid quarantine.

In her latest snap the I Can See Your Voice and Britain’s Got Talent panellist can be seen emerging from the see in a stunning fishnet one-piece swimsuit, hair slicked back, sunnies on and a smile spread wide across her face.

Amanda captioned the post simply: “Fancy a dip?! #familytime.”

Clearly loving the chance to spend some quality time away from work with her nearest and dearest, as well as soak up some beautiful Portuguese sunshine.

Fans of the Heart Radio DJ were loving the snap and said so in the comments.

“Absolutely stunning,” wrote one.

“Flippin ‘eck love,” added another, clearly lost for words.

There were also a few fans who noticed something familiar about the shot which set their minds whirring and suggested a possible new role and fresh career prospects for Amanda.

“Seriously Bond has found his new Bond woman,” one declared.

“Bond film springs to mind,” another agreed.



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“Waiting for that Bond Girl contract like…” joked a third.

Many thought Amanda was harking back to Honey Ryder’s iconic scene in 1962’s Dr No, during which she emerges from the ocean and piques the interest of Sean Connery’s titular super sleuth.

What do you reckon, could Amanda find herself cast in a future Bond? Let us know in the comments here.





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Gary Sanchez has hand injury after being struck by foul tip


Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez was removed from Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rays before the bottom of the fifth inning, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com was among those to relay. Sánchez was struck in the right hand by a foul tip in the prior inning. While he stayed in the game to take his next plate appearance, Sánchez was replaced by Kyle Higashioka thereafter.

Sánchez has been diagnosed with a contusion on his index and middle fingers, but X-rays came back negative, via Hoch. He is currently listed as day-to-day, but if it does require him to miss time, Higashioka would figure to pick up the bulk of the playing time behind the dish. Those two are the only catchers on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, so another move would be forthcoming if Sánchez isn’t able to make an immediate return to action.

Rob Brantly and Robinson Chirinos are both in the organization on minor-league deals, but the latter remains on the mend from surgery to repair a wrist fracture last month. That seemingly suggests Brantly is next in line should additional catching depth be required in the Bronx.





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NJ Community Raises $2,000 for Server After Group Leaves No Tip, Angry Note Over Time Limit


As anyone who has gone to eat at a restaurant anytime since last summer knows, there are strict rules the establishments operate under. One such common rule is implementing a time limit for customers, which roughly puts a cap on how long customers can be seated at the table for.



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In New Jersey, one restaurant-goer was not too happy to be given such a limit, and expressed disapproval on the bill — which went viral, and has led to an outpouring of support for the restaurant staff.

Along with utilizing a QR code for the menu, the Glenbrook Brewery in Morristown states at each table that seating is limited to 90 minutes due to COVID capacity restrictions. Last Friday evening, a group of four sat down and at least one of them didn’t seem to appreciate being given such a limitation.

So the customers ate their food and paid their $86 bill, but not a cent more, neglecting to leave any sort of monetary tip. What was left, however, was an angry tip for the staff in the form of a note, reading in part, “Don’t kick paying customers out after 90 minutes.”

The staff was surprised to get such a reaction from customers regarding a fairly commonplace rule adopted across the service industry that is a direct result of COVID and capacity limits.

“It’s not like we’re trying to keep people from staying here, it’s just something that needs to happen in 50 percent capacity for a business to survive,” said Beth, who served the table.

The upsetting note — and perhaps more upsetting lack of appreciation for the service workers — was met with support from the Morristown community, however. After a fellow serve at another neighboring establishment posted a snapshot of the receipt, donations started pouring in. The restaurant had receive nearly $2,000 in support.

“The public support and outpouring, the kind comments, just the things people say bring me to tears,” said Beth. She is working server jobs while studying for her doctorate in nursing practice.

While the donations have come in to make up for her dismal treatment by the customers, she said that the money won’t just be going to her.

“The plan is to split with the other servers and donate the rest to the community,” she said.

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This May Be the Most Underrated and Easiest Sleep Tip Ever


The global pandemic has caused many of us around the world to lose sleep for a variety of reasons. It could be due to the work-from-home situation or the lack of social activities, travel opportunities and more. This means that more should be done to regulate our sleeping patterns, especially if we find ourselves lying awake in the middle of the night with nothing but tech devices to rely on to fall asleep. 

For World Sleep Day on March 19, we consulted a wellness expert to provide more insights on how we can fall into a deep slumber without trouble. 

While we’ve previously shared a list of tips on how to fall asleep better, this new tip is remarkably easy to follow and studies have also found it to be effective.

(Related: Battling Insomnia Due to Covid-19? 8 Simple Tips to Improve the Way You Sleep)

“Despite the importance of sleep, it is constantly way up at the top of the list of concerns people have about their health. It’s safe to say that almost everyone can relate, we’ve all had a bad night’s sleep at some point in our lives. Maybe it was because of a long haul flight, woke stress or even young kids keeping us awake,” said Dr Tal Friedman, Head of Naturopathic and Research & Development Specialist at Chiva-Som Hua Hin, a luxury wellness and international health resort. 

“An entire industry has been built around trying to get people to sleep better. From speciality mattresses and bedding to essential oils, pillow mists and a wide variety of supplements. To be fair, I do enjoy many of those products and supplements and they do have their uses.”

However, he added there is one “deceptively simple tool that barely gets any mention”.

Journaling. That’s right, the simple act of writing could actually help you unwind and prep yourself for bed effectively every night.



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Travel baron’s tip on when we’ll be jetting off again


International travel is expected to return within months, as Qantas restarts long-haul flights and pressure builds on the Government to fast-track the rollout of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Two of Australia’s largest travel organisations this week offered new hope to travel-hungry Australians, with Qantas selling seats to the US and UK from July, and Flight Centre ready to follow.

Australia’s national carrier restarted sales of the international flights despite both countries struggling to bring the virus under control.

“We continue to review and update our international schedule in response to the developing COVID-19 situation,” the airline said.

Brisbane-based Flight Centre CEO Graham “Skroo” Turner

Brisbane-based Flight Centre CEO Graham “Skroo” Turner

 

“Recently we have aligned the selling of our international services to reflect our expectation that international travel will begin to restart from July 2021.”

Flight Centre CEO Graham “Skroo” Turner told The Courier-Mail the Queensland travel giant would closely watch Qantas’ success before deciding whether to restart sales of its own international holiday packages.

Mr Turner said international travel was likely to return from July following Australia’s first COVID-19 vaccinations – which the Government hopes will start in March.

“I think it’s reasonable to accept that vaccinated people will be able to travel reasonably widely by July,” Mr Turner said.

“I would be surprised if a reasonable level of international travel for Australians wasn’t occurring by then.”

Mr Turner, who is locked in hotel quarantine following a business trip to London over Christmas, tipped British residents would be travelling across Europe within months despite the nation being plunged into its third national lockdown this week.

“They’ll be travelling by summer because the vaccine is being rolled out so that’s a positive,” he said.

 

 

Mr Turner expected Australia, which has led the world in managing the virus, would bounce back quickly once the vaccine was widely available.

The pace of the rollout, however, has been criticised by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, with more than 2.8 million Americans and 900,000 British people already receiving jabs.

Australia’s Pfizer vaccine is expected to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration this month, however Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said further approvals and stock would be secured before widespread inoculation.

Meanwhile, growing clusters in New South Wales and Victoria has again raised concerns about Queensland’s jittery border.

Tourism leaders are calling for the state government to publicly outline clear triggers that will affect border changes instead of relying on confidential advice from the chief health officer.

Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind said the possibility of snap border closures as interstate clusters grew was “freaking everybody out”.

“Any system that provides greater certainty would certainly be helpful, so we have a bit more predictability on what will happen if a case is identified or a cluster emerges,” he said.

“If we can avoid wholesale border closures, that’s the aim of the game.

“That’s what’s really freaking everybody out and introducing enormous uncertainty into the market and then in consumers’ heads.”

 

Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

 

Mr Turner also revealed Flight Centre lawyers are yet to receive a response to a right to information application seeking the medical advice underpinning Queensland’s border closures earlier this year.

The application, lodged on June 9, sought the documents revealing the heath advice relied on by Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young to justify closing the borders to Sydney and Melbourne between July and December.

Acting Health Minister Mark Furner said the Government would continue to make decisions based on expert health advice.

“It’s because of Queensland’s strong health response and our minimal restrictions that so many Queenslanders are enjoying all that Queensland has to offer over the Christmas-New Year period,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Travel baron’s tip on when we’ll be jetting off again





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Dr. Pimple Popper’s Sandra Lee’s Maskne Skincare Tip


'Dr. Pimple Popper' Star Sandra Lee Shares Her Super Simple Maskne Tip
Dr. Sandra Lee. Stewart Cook/Shutterstock

Wearing a mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic does a lot of good to prevent the spread of the coronavirus but it can also cause breakouts —a.k.a. maskne. Luckily, Dr. Pimple Popper star Dr. Sandra Lee has the simple solution we’ve all been searching for!

“We all get breakouts from our masks,” she tells Us while talking about the new season of her TLC show. “So I really like to use this little travel size salicylic acid body spray. And what you’ll do is, you just spray the mask.” You just wave it dry and voila! You’ve got yourself an acne-fighting protective face mask.

She notes that beta hydroxy acid in salicylic works to counteract the buildup of oil and debris that collects when wearing a mask.

“Also it’s better when you’re wearing makeup,” she explains, saying that at times it can feel like you’re trapped inside a microclimate created by the mask. “This is a really great thing because salicylic acid is great to settle down within your pores and help to clear out the dirt and the debris and help prevent blackheads and whiteheads forming that lead to acne.”

While talking with Us, the TLC star also revealed one of her most unexpected celebrity fans: Kim Kardashian!

“I wasn’t actually seeing her [as a patient]. She drove over [to my office] to say ‘hello’ to me and she said she was obsessed with [my show],” Lee told Us. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. This is crazy.’”

Other A-list fans include Gwyneth Paltrow, Selena Gomez and Ashley Graham.

“There’s so many people that are [fans]. It’s amazing for me to see,” she explained. “It’s really special, actually, because obviously everybody knows them. And for them to actually recognize or maybe even tell you that — you know, stop and tell you that they really like what you’re doing — I mean, that’s just a crazy action.”

If you too are a “popaholic” you can watch season 5 of Dr. Pimple Popper on TLC every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.

Given the constantly evolving nature of COVID-19, Us Weekly wants our readers to have access to the most accurate resources. For the most up-to-date coronavirus information, guidance, and support, consult the CDC, WHO, and information from local public health officials. If you’re experiencing coronavirus symptoms, call your primary care provider for medical advice.

Listen on Spotify to Get Tressed With Us to get the details of every hair love affair in Hollywood, from the hits and misses on the red carpet to your favorite celebrities’ street style ‘dos (and don’ts!)



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Two UK cases of South Africa Covid strain are likely ‘the tip of the iceberg’& restrictions ‘may be too late’


THE two UK cases of the coronavirus strain from South Africa are likely to be the “tip of the iceberg”, according to experts.

And banning flights from South Africa, and strict quarantining of recent arrivals, may be “too late” to stop the spread of the new variant in the UK.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

A new strain which developed in the UK has already plunged millions in Tier 4 rules

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A new strain which developed in the UK has already plunged millions in Tier 4 rulesCredit: AFP or licensors

During yesterday’s Downing Street briefing, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed the new and “highly concerning” strain, called 501.V2, had entered Britain.

He ordered anyone who has visited South Africa in the past two weeks, or been in contact with someone who has, to quarantine immediately.


Coronavirus Scotland: Almost a fifth of Scots planning to break Covid rules to celebrate Christmas, poll shows


All flights from South Africa will be stopped, with people who have been in or transited through South Africa in the last 10 days are no longer allowed into the UK, other than British or Irish nationals who must self isolate.

Mr Hancock claimed the new variant is even more contagious than another new strain detected in Kent and London earlier this month, which scientists say is up to 70 per cent more easily spread.

It has led to millions being plunged into Tier 4 at the “eleventh hour” before Christmas, or on Boxing Day, to manage “out of control” cases.

Professor Lawrence Young, a molecular oncologist, University of Warwick, told The Sun: “If this strain is as transmissible as suggested by the data that has come out of South Africa, then just identifying a few cases recently, it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg, I suspect.

“You can identify it in a couple of people… but they’ll be more, for sure. 

“Some cases will be from people spreading it in the UK, and some will be from other introductions from South Africa.”

Prof Young said there is “still a lot we don’t know” about the variant from South Africa, and whether it is more transmissible, or simply been able to grow “in the right place, at the right time”. 

Scientists in South Africa say the variant is still being analysed, but the data are consistent with it spreading more quickly. It accounts for around 90 per cent of new cases.

Prof Young said: “If this has become the dominant infection in South Africa, and it’s been there certainly for a couple of months, and how many have travelled between the UK and South Africa in that time now? Quite a lot I would’ve thought.”

Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said it’s “quite possible” there are undetected cases in the UK, but it will “probably be a number of weeks before we know for certain”.

Speaking of the quarantine measures imposed yesterday, Prof Hunter said: “It might already be too late, but we just don’t know.

“If [these two] are the only infections, yes it might be enough. But if it has already spread elsewhere in the UK and we just don’t know it, the answer is probably no, it won’t be sufficient.”

What is the new strain from South Africa?

The new variant is called 501.V2 and it was announced by the South African government on December 18.

At this stage, its symptoms do not appear to be different to that caused by the original Covid strain.

The most common signs of Covid to look out for are a loss of taste and smell, a persistent cough, and a high temperature.

Scientists are investigating whether the new strain causes more severe disease. But it does seem to be infecting more young people than the original strain, according to South African’s health minister Zweli Mkhize.

Dr Andrew Preston, University of Bath, said: “The ‘South African’ variant is distinct from the UK variant, but both contain an unusually high number of mutations compared to other SARS-CoV-2 lineages.”

“Some of these mutations change the S protein, which is cause for concern,” Dr Preston said.

The spike protein is on the outer surface of the viral particle. It is a focus for coronavirus vaccines, and so if it changes, it could affect how vaccines work.

New strains may make vaccines less effective, because the immune system does not recognise the new variant when it infects the body. This is “highly unlikely” to affect the vaccines that are being rolled out in the UK right now.

The mutations in this virus also mean it’s possible it can reinfect a person who has already recovered from Covid-19.

All of these things are being studied closely.

Mutations are normal in any evolution of a virus over time. Already thousands have been found in SARS-CoV-2 within one year.

What makes the latest two from the UK and South Africa so interesting is the speed at which they became “prominent”, causing lots of cases and suddenly.

The two confirmed cases -in London and the North West – were close contacts of people who had recently travelled to South Africa.

Those travellers would have had Covid-19, possibly without showing symptoms.

It is not clear if this was while they were in the UK, and if they have passed it onto other people who have gone undetected. 

Infectious diseases expert Dr Susan Hopkins told the Downing Street press conference yesterday that health chiefs were “pretty confident” the measures that have been taken will help to control the spread.

TRAVEL ALLOWS STRAINS TO SPREAD

Experts said it’s likely there are more cases of the South Africa variant on the basis that the UK one has already reached several other countries. 

Prof Hunter told The Sun: “It wouldn’t surprise me if it was circulating, in the way the English one is circulating already in many European countries.”

Prof Young said: “This so-called UK variant is now in Belgium, Gibraltar, the Netherlands, Australia, Denmark. It’s all over the place. Today it’s been reported in Israel.

Where the UK strain has been detected

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Where the UK strain has been detected

“It’s because of travelling. I know it is difficult, but if you don’t restrict travel, and you’re not strict about quarantining people, this is what you end up with.”

The UK has repeatedly seen introductions of other strains from across the world which have quickly become dominant, and caused cases to soar. 

Prof Young said: “One of the things we’ve not been so good at is border control. When you look at countries that have been successful, one of the things they did very early on is shut their borders.

“We were very slow to do that, hence we allowed a lot of introductions of the virus into the UK from overseas.

“That’s what happened in the first wave, and it looks like that also contributed to fuelling this second wave.”

What’s happening in South Africa?

501.V2 accounts for up to 90 percent of South Africa’s new cases.

Daily confirmed infections are reaching 9,500 per day, on average.

It’s the highest it’s been since the peak of the first wave in July, when almost 13,000 cases were being diagnosed a day.

The country saw a dip in cases between September and mid-November before a sudden spike, which the health minister Mr Mkhize said was “being driven by this new variant”.

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Latest figures suggest the South African strain was behind a record number of people being hospitalised there.

South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections on the African continent, approaching the 950,000 mark, with over 25,000 related deaths so far.

A resurgence in positive cases saw the government tighten lockdown restrictions last week, but a lockdown has not been used.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on December 18 it was in touch with the South African researchers who identified the new variant.

“We are working with them with our SARS-CoV-2 Virus evolution working group,” said WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove.

“They are growing the virus in the country and they’re working with researchers to determine any changes in the behaviour of the virus itself in terms of transmission.”

Boris Johnson refuses to rule out new national lockdown as new Covid-19 strains hit hard


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