British variant confirmed in Canaries through covid genome sequencing

Updated 26 January: The Canarian Government has said that “49 samples of the British variant have been detected out of 7,239 positives tested”. The strain, more infectious and possibly more lethal, was identified through Candelaria Hospital’s Microbiology Service in conjunction with the Genomics Area of the Institute of Technology and Renewable Energies. 

The Government says that the genome sequencing technology, already tested successfully, allowed for 100 samples of nasopharyngeal exudate from covid patients collected between 18 December and 18 January, in whom the presence of any of the known variants of the virus was suspected, especially the B.1.1.7 or British variant. The results obtained showed that none of the samples corresponded to the so-called South African or Brazilian variants, but the British variant was identified in 49 samples out of 7,239 which tested positive, approximately 0.67% of the total number of cases detected in the Canary Islands in that period of time.

Of these 49 samples, four were from Lanzarote and 34 from Tenerife, though our island’s figures include the cases linked to the December outbreak in La Palma. Two are confirmed to be from UK nationals while a further seven are still being traced. Sequencing work continues with all suspected samples.

Sanidad (Canarias) says that the British variant of SARS-CoV-2 has already been found in other Spanish regions such as Madrid, Andalusia, Valencia, Navarra and Galicia, among others. The measures to contain this variant of the coronavirus are the same as for the other variants but with greater care because of its increased transmissibility: masks, hand hygiene, interpersonal distance, limiting the number of people with whom we interact, choosing fresh air or well-ventilated spaces whenever possible, staying at home if you have symptoms or are awaiting the results of a diagnostic test or have had contact with a person with COVID-19.

Updated 28 December 2020 (Janet): It occurs to me that the negative reaction to Mencey’s post and the clearly triggered outrage at the description of the covid variant as the “British strain” is perhaps because most readers who are annoyed don’t much read the foreign press. This is the way the variant is seen, throughout Europe, and named by everyone in scientific and media circles. It is like “the Japanese variant” or “the South African variant”, neither of which have yet been discovered in Spain but if and when they are, they will be described as such without expectation that Japanese or South African nationals will join the offenderati and be up in arms at the description. Here, today, for your information, is Diario de Avisos reporting on “the British variant” – you will note that their article is from the news agency Europa Press, so this is the nomenclature that all media outlets, including In Tenerife, receive from Government, think tanks, science organizations, and anyone else they get press releases or information from. Before anyone gets triggered about anything, it’s never a bad idea to check how an issue is seen beyond the confines of one’s own immediate closed circle.

Original post (Mencey) 26 December: Madrid has reported four cases of the new British strain of Covid in travellers who arrived in the capital from the UK before a ban on arrivals came into place. Obviously this does not concern Tenerife directly, but there have been so many attempts at complaining on this site by people incensed at the closure of Tenerife borders for tourists from the UK that this report highlights the risks involved in travelling during a pandemic.


  1. Perhaps not the best place to provide a Covid vaccination update I had yesterday in the UK with second one in mid April
    I had the AZ one and no side effects except a sore area where vaccinated
    We were provided with a leaflet for after the vaccination
    No real immunity for about 3 weeks and four for oldies
    So must keep to the rules to protect everyone up to having the second vaccination
    By then we will have more scientific evidence of what precautions to take
    All the best everyone

  2. This is an excellent site – that often gives a nuance that
    unlocks the deeper meaning of a situation that those
    without excellent Spanish skills cannot unlock. We all
    owe considerable gratitude to Janet for her fortitude.

    The province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife consists of four
    principal islands. Given the improbability of a “cloned”
    Janet on the other three islands, I would hope that this
    site can cover La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro in
    addition to Tenerife itself.

    Are there any other subscribers on El Hierro? If so, it
    would be good to make contact.

    1. Author

      Alan you are very welcome here! We have a reader and regular contributor in Gran Canaria, and I know we have at least one other reader in El Hierro … hopefully they’ll see your comment and respond. (And thank you for the very kind words!)

  3. It would be good if comments could relate to Tenerife as many of us away from the island in the UK look forward to reading what is happening on the island
    Sniping against the UK or UK tourists or others from overseas is not really appropriate as one writer frequently does. Our own experience from two three week visits last year is a significant number of locals not wearing masks or observing social distancing so it’s good to see the comment above about this improving in a local Mall
    We hope residents will be able to get their vaccinations this year as we hope the Spanish Government will have secured enough vaccinations for you all on the island
    Must end now as off to get my first Covid vaccination at a site in Yorkshire with the second already booked for April. Over 65’s to start from about the 16th.

    1. Author

      The whole point with comments though, David, is that people can express their opinions, and with half my readers being in the UK, that’s going to be a significant filter, if not a focus. For my own part, I’m happy with comments about anything as long as they’re not sniping or from one of the crazies, nasties and conspiracy theorists … and in a relevant post!

      Good news about your vaccine though! I hope it all goes smoothly for you. So good to hear of another person who’ll be far safer!

  4. That is a depressing list of high profile Covidiots, all of whom should know better but perhaps share a misconceived sense of entitlement. In terms of a perceived lack of consequences, I would highlight that the Scottish Police did arrest Margaret Ferrier, charged her with culpable and reckless conduct and sent a report to the Procurator Fiscal (Scottish equivalent of CPS in England). Criminal court proceedings may now follow.

  5. As you have raised the issuue of inapropriate leadership and the ‘idiot Cummings’ (your view not mine) getting away with it, I think it completly appropriate for me to point out that:

    SNP MP Margaret Ferrier travelled by public transport to and from Westminister after testing pisitive.

    Spanish Vice President Pablo Inglesias broke self issolation rules after his partner tested positive. Also censured later for ignoring face mask recommendations.

    Dan Tore Eliasson of the Swedish Social Democratic Party travelled to the Canary Islands to spend Christmas with daughter.

    Belgian Prince Joachim partying in Spain and returning with covid.

    Austrias President Van der Bellen broke covid curfew at resturant with his wife.

    No doubt we could find more ‘idiots’ if we all tried a little harder.

    But the biggest ‘idiots’ are those not mentioned above. The idiot lawmakers here in these Islands and the lobbyists. These people continue to ignore reality and push for us to open up again to tourisim. They are the the biggest danger facing us today. They are the ones lacking true leadership. They are the ones not showing true responsibility and are undermining credibility.

  6. In response to the comment by Tony about the “track and trace fiasco”, the system will only work if the public cooperate. Tracers try to get in touch with contacts but they either do not answer their phones or block the NHS number. I know a tracer who had 20 contacts to trace one day and only one would answer their phone despite repeated attempts. You cannot blame the government for this, it is the great British public.

    1. Author

      This is of course a valid comment, but I think rather overstated because unless the leadership shows a responsibility the great British public will ignore their advice. Events like that idiot Cummings testing his eyesight and getting away with it simply undermine the credibility of the government.

      This site, however, is focused on Tenerife so the situation in the UK is not really a topic we want to discuss here- there are plenty of other sites prepared to do that. As far as the behaviour of the great British public is concerned, anecdotal evidence is abundant that they are often flouting the rules in Tenerife to a disgraceful degree, videos of crowded bars with an absolute disregard for the required safety measures, and so on. Away from the coast, my own very limited experience is that the local population keep to the rules without exception. Only today I was in Siam Mall and noticed that everybody was wearing a mask, except for two ladies of certain proportions screeching at each other with Birmingham accents. OK, anecdotal evidence has little value but gives the impression that the great British public are behaving is an appalling manner here, and presumably also where they come from as well. I have no idea why people would behave like that.

  7. QUOTE: “Considering the track-and-trace fiasco I find it rather difficult to believe the UK is ahead in any aspect of this fight against the pandemic, but am quite prepared to be persuaded.”

    Maybe you would like to comment on the UK procurement of vaccine and it’s roll out!

    1. Author

      Yes, indeed, the procurement and roll-out in the UK does seem to be very effective – the Tories managed to find someone, Kate Bingham, who actually knew what she was doing. The EU has messed things up because the member states would have been more effective if left to themselves. Of course, this is a development after I made that comment, and I’m delighted to see the UK for once not completely useless.

  8. A new varient first identified in the UK is now confirmed here. Now there’s a surprise. More to follow.

  9. Nigels recent comment really sums it all up and applies to every country !
    This is a wonderful informative site and like many has understandably been dominated in part by the Covid situation whilst keeping us up to date on important events/issues on the island
    Frustration and fear always lead to more expressive comments whether it be towards tourists or Bexit as we have seen on the Message Board. Even Boris gets mentioned 😀
    Here in the UK we two OAP’s and future residents wake up each day thankful we are well and so much better off than so many who are struggling with personal loss and hardship
    I watched Captain Tom’s story on Breakfast TV this morning and if he can get to a 100 following the rules then let’s all try to do the same

  10. Well reported ladies – spot on all the way.

    1. Author

      Mencey is no lady, take that as you wish … 😀

  11. The last nine months have only proved the following. A lot of us wrongly believe it’s not happening. A lot of us think the rules don’t apply to them and a few of us relieve our frustration by shouting at others in Janets comments section and blaming others. By now the sensible majority know what to do. Minimise exposure to others, wear a mask (not under your chin or on your arm) and stay safe. It’s not rocket science for gods sake.

  12. Who cares what people want to call this new variant we’re all in the same boat which appears to be rudderless at present. Whichever country any new variant of this sod awful virus is first found will have the dubious honour of being so tagged, it’s merely a means of describing old and new variants. Let’s all just hope 2021 will see the end of covid19 completely and enable everyone to get their lives back to some form of normality – PLEASE!!!!

  13. With reference to Mencey’s question of 26 th Dec regarding evidence of “best testing done in Britain” I can only report on the comment made by Hugo de Jonge, the Dutch health minister, who reported the new strain of the virus, B117,:is more infectious, but no more dangerous than the original.
    This strain could quite well be in other countries but the UK has noticed it first because they have one of the most sophisticated genomic monitoring in the world, which meant they had a head start in spotting it.
    Also the Uk automatically forensically investigates genetic changes in the virus when testing.

  14. Well reported Janet and Mencey. I was starting to think I had stumbled into an alternative universe where people had no common sense or respect. So glad you stick with us.

    Looking forward with love and positivity to a wonderful 2021. My best wishes to each and every reader and contributor to this site.

  15. Thank You Janet for All your Clear Understanding of The Covid 19 Situation..
    We are Residents & Find your Site A Big Help.
    You are very Informative & Clear on All your Comments..
    Wishing You A Happy New Year..

  16. Surely even the most rabid Brit-o-phile can understand that something discovered, evaluated and announced to the world from any place is, inevitably, linked to said place in perpetuity?
    Mencey has made a statement, correct in all its particulars, and the ragbag of responses I suspect it triggered is as much a symptom of embarrassing Britophilia as any I’ve seen.
    Every virus mutates. Every single one. It’s what they do. We should, instead of crying, stand up and say “Hey, look what we’ve found! See? At least we’re keeping a close eye on it.”
    But then, since the UK seems to really WANT to be America’s 51st state, it follows that they would be parroting Trump with his “China Virus”, which it is purely because it was found there.
    There. I think I’ve caused enough blood pressure rises in these few short paragraphs!
    I’m voting Mencey!

  17. Careful Mencey, you’re falling into that implied blame game by linking your observation into the strain coming to Spain with tourists. Is there any evidence to support this implied assertion, or could it be Spaniards returning to Spain for the holidays?

    1. Author

      Where is the link with tourists? I seem to remember writing “travellers who arrived in the capital from the UK” which could be anybody, not necessarily a tourist. It is hard to see how you can arrive in Madrid without travelling to do so.

  18. It is not a British strain. It was discovered first in Britain because the best testing is being done there. Now that other countries have been alerted to it by the UK they are finding it all over the world.

    1. Author

      OK, just a headline, and it is reporting news, not my opinion. But what is your evidence that the best testing is being done in Britain? I would like a reference to support that assertion. And how can you state it is not British? Considering the track-and-trace fiasco I find it rather difficult to believe the UK is ahead in any aspect of this fight against the pandemic, but am quite prepared to be persuaded.

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