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New mutated strain of coronavirus emerges in Russia’s Siberia — watchdog chief

The chief sanitary physician said that the virus strains from Western Europe were brought to Russia en masse in early spring

MOSCOW, November 17. /TASS/. The Russian consumer watchdog is registering certain changes to the novel coronavirus that is circulating in Siberia, head of the agency Anna Popova told a virtual symposium highlighting new scientific data about COVID-19 Tuesday.

"We are witnessing certain changes <…> in the Siberian Region which allows us to suppose that its own variant [of coronavirus] is forming in this region with certain mutations," she said.

Popova also said that the virus strains from Western Europe were brought to Russia en masse in early spring. "However, we don’t see transmissions from China at all. In other words, there are no strains brought from China early this year circulating in Russia," Popova explained.

The Russian consumer watchdog told reporters that this is not some exceptional case limited to Siberia but rather a mutation that is already widely spread abroad. "We just detect mutations that are widespread in other countries in the course of close monitoring. In particular, isolated cases of a mutation that is spread in Japan have been identified in certain regions of [Russia’s] European part," the agency said, adding that "research continues."

In late December 2019, Chinese officials informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus - named COVID-19 by the WHO - have been reported in every corner of the globe. On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

According to the latest statistics, more than 55 million people have been infected worldwide and more than 1,300,000 deaths have been reported. To date, 1,971,013 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, with 1,475,904 patients having recovered from the disease. Russia’s latest data indicates 33,931 fatalities nationwide. Earlier, the Russian government set up an Internet hotline to keep the public updated on the coronavirus situation.