Greece detects four cases of new coronavirus variant

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FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a swab from a man for a rapid antigen test at a drive-through testing site, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Athens, Greece, Dec. 18, 2020.

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece has detected four cases of the new coronavirus variant in people who recently travelled from Britain, according to a Health Ministry official.

The new variant of the coronavirus, now spreading around the world, was first found in Britain and is more transmissible than the original variant of the virus first identified in China a year ago. Another recent new variant was first found in South Africa.

"The four persons recently travelled to Greece from Britain. They are in quarantine," a Health Ministry Official who declined to be named told Reuters. It was the first time that Greece has reported cases of the new variant.

Greece tightened coronavirus curbs for a week from Sunday, closing hair salons and bookstores that had been allowed to reopen in the run-up to Christmas, to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The country, which started the first vaccinations against COVID-19 last week, has reported 140,099 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,957 related deaths.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Susan Fenton)