New coronavirus variant reach Canada, Japan and several EU countries

Cases of a new variant of COVID-19 first detected in England were confirmed by health officials in Canada, Japan and several more European Union countries Saturday.

Why it matters: While there’s no evidence the variant is more deadly than the original strain, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that it could be 70% more transmissible prompted dozens of countries to ban travel from the United Kingdom.

  • The strain, called B.1.1.7, spurred a cases spike that saw tens of millions of people in England and Wales lock down over the holidays.
  • Some officials worry it may have been spreading unnoticed worldwide, as few countries have the kind of sophisticated genomic surveillance that enabled British scientists to find the variant, per the New York Times.

What’s happening: The Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed the first two cases in North America of the new coronavirus strain Saturday evening, in the province of Ontario.

  • The agency noted in a statement that “these two cases did not travel outside of Canada.”

Officials in Japan said Saturday the country would close its border to all non-resident foreign nationals from midnight Monday and through Jan. 31 after seven people tested positive for the variant, broadcaster NHK reports.

In Spain, Madrid’s regional government announced Saturday that four people had become infected with the variant, according to Al Jazeera.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency said Saturday the strain had been detected in a newly returned traveler from the U.K., Reuters notes.

France’s health ministry confirmed the first B.1.1.7 case in the country late Friday, per AFP.

For the record: Coronavirus vaccines are starting to be rolled out across North AmericaEuropean Union countries and nations around the world.

  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Saturday, “Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic.”
  • There’s no evidence the B.1.1.7 strain can affect the effectiveness of these vaccinations.

6 Comments

  1. This is very frightening. Goes to show that, even if we already have a vaccine in place, it doesn’t mean we’ll be eradicating COVID-19 anytime soon…there will always be new strains evolving and getting the population infected, so it’s going to take a LONG time before we return to even a hint of normalcy. Thanks for informing us!

    Liked by 1 person

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