QUITO, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Ecuador detected three more cases of the coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom, bringing the total number of such cases in the South American country to four, Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos said on Wednesday.
All three cases involve relatives of patient zero, the first to test positive for the variant on Monday, Zevallos said at a virtual press conference.
"Three relatives have tested positive, that's to say we have community transmission, because the person who arrived (from the UK) is the one who infected the other three," said Zevallos.
Patient zero is a 50-year-old Ecuadorian who arrived in the country on Dec. 12 from London, with a transfer in Madrid of Spain.
Health authorities said this week that 2,560 people, including 14 who are part of the first patient's inner circle, are under medical observation.
According to preliminary analysis in the United Kingdom, the variant may be up to 70 percent more contagious, though there is no evidence that it is more lethal.
Ecuador's healthcare system is about to reach capacity, with a total of 222,567 cases of COVID-19 infection and 9,610 deaths from the disease in the past 10 months.