Three new variants of COVID-19 have been detected in recent weeks, leading to increased vigilance across the world as officials say a variant found in the United Kingdom could be up to 70 percent more transmissible.
However, none of the variants so far has been found to be more fatal, or more likely to be able to evade vaccines or treatments.
A new variant was first reported in the United Kingdom on December 14. Named VUI-202012/01 (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020), it is thought to have first appeared in mid-September.
Referred to by some experts as the B117 lineage, this has rapidly become the dominant strain in cases of COVID-19 in many parts of the UK.
Last week, South Africa reported another new strain which appears to have mutated further than the UK variant.
Known as 501.V2, this variant is dominant among new confirmed infections in South Africa.
On December 24, the head of Africa’s disease control body said another COVID-19 strain, known as the P681H was identified in Nigeria.
It is of a separate lineage from the other mutations but does not seem to be spreading as fast as the other two new variants.
Below is a list of countries which have so far reported cases of the new strains of coronavirus.
On December 21 Australian health officials said two people travelling from the UK arrived in the country with the new strain.
The World Health Organization reported that nine cases of a new variant were detected in Denmark.
Health officials in the Canadian province of Ontario on December 26 reported the country’s first two cases of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in the UK.
The cases are a couple in Durham, a region east of Toronto, with no known travel history, exposure or high-risk contacts, the province said. They are in self-isolation.
On December 25 France detected its first case of a new variant in a French national who returned from the British capital on December 19.
He had no symptoms and was quarantined in his home in the central city of Tours.
On December 23, Italy registered the second case of a new strain of the novel coronavirus near the central town of Ancona, but the patient had no direct contact with the UK, where the variant first emerged.
Laboratory director Stefano Menzo told Italian news agency ANSA that it was not the strain first detected in the UK.
The country had already detected that new COVID-19 strain on December 20 in a person who recently arrived from the UK. The patient landed at Rome’s Fiumicino airport and is now in quarantine.
On December 25 Japan reported its first five cases of the fast-spreading variant in passengers arriving from the UK.
The country’s health minister said on December 27 that Jordan had detected its first two cases of the new variant of the coronavirus which has been spreading rapidly in parts of Britain, in travellers who recently arrived from the UK.
In Lebanon, the country’s caretaker health minister said on December 25 that a case of the new variant was detected on a flight arriving from London.
The Middle East Airlines flight 202 arrived on December 21, Hamad Hassan said, urging all passengers on the flight and their families to take precautionary measures.
On December 22, Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said the new variant identified in the UK was found in two cases in the Amsterdam area.
On December 24, the head of Africa’s disease control body said a new variant of the new coronavirus emerged in Nigeria.
The variant was found in two patient samples collected on August 3 and on October 9 in Nigeria’s Osun state, according to a working research paper seen by The Associated Press news agency.
Singapore confirmed on December 24 its first case of the new coronavirus variant found in the UK.
Among the 31 COVID-19 patients who arrived between November 17 and December 17, one was confirmed as carrying the B117 strain, while 11 others were found infected preliminarily, and their confirmatory results are pending, Singapore’s health ministry said.
Spain reported its first four cases of the new variant on December 26. All four infections were related to travel to the UK, the regional deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero, said.
There are three other suspected cases of the coronavirus variant but the results of tests will only be available on Tuesday or Wednesday, Zapatero said.
South Africa last week reported a new COVID-19 strain which appears to have mutated further than the UK variant. It has made its way to several countries including the UK.
Known as 501.V2, this variant is dominant among new confirmed infections in South Africa, and appears to be more infectious than the original virus, according to health officials and scientists leading the country’s virus strategy.
South Korean officials reported on December 28 that the new variant was detected in a family flying to the country from London on December 22, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The three have been in isolation since testing positive.
The new variant of the coronavirus circulating in the UK was detected in Sweden after a traveller from the UK fell ill on arrival and tested positive for it, the Swedish Health Agency said on December 26.
Health Agency official Sara Byfors told a news conference the traveller, who was not identified, had kept isolated after arrival in Sweden and that no further positive cases had so far been detected.
On December 28, Norway said the variant circulating in Britain had been detected in two people who arrived from the United Kingdom earlier in December.
On December 14, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said more than 1,000 cases of a new variant of the coronavirus have been found, predominantly in the south of England.
On December 23, Hancock said the country found two cases of yet another new coronavirus variant linked to South Africa.
“Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks,” Hancock told a media briefing.
On December 29, Indian health authorities said they have found six people who had returned from Britain in recent weeks who had tested positive for the new coronavirus strain.
All six patients have been kept in isolation, India’s health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. “Their close contacts have also been put under quarantine,” the statement said.
On December 29, Pakistan said it has detected three cases of the new coronavirus strain from travelers that had returned from Britain.
“The genotyping showed 95 percent match of the new variant from the UK,” said Meeran Yousuf, spokesperson for the Sindh health department.
“These samples will go through another phase of genotyping,” she said, adding that contact tracing of these travelers is in process and their contacts are also being isolated.
Karachi (29.12.2020): Samples of 3 UK returnees show a 95% match to the new Corona Virus variant from UK in the first phase of Genotyping. #SindhHealth pic.twitter.com/4UUTSMTOQa
— Health and Population Welfare Department, Sindh (@SindhHealthDpt) December 29, 2020
On December 29, Chile said it had recorded its first case of the British variant of coronavirus, prompting health authorities to reinstate a mandatory quarantine period for all visitors entering the South American nation from abroad.
Chilean Undersecretary of Health Paula Daza said a Chilean woman who returned to her home country on December 22 had tested positive for the variant. She had traveled to London to visit family.
On December 29, Switzerland documented five cases of the variant from Britain and two cases of the South African mutation, a health ministry official said, adding he anticipates more cases will emerge.
On December 30, the US state of Colorado recorded what is reportedly America’s first case of the infectious coronavirus variant.
“Today we discovered Colorado’s first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the UK,” state governor Jared Polis tweeted.
Today we discovered Colorado’s first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the UK.
The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely. pic.twitter.com/fjyq7QhzBi
— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) December 29, 2020