Several countries find cases of the new coronavirus variant

SPH Brightcove Video
Japan said it would temporarily ban non-resident foreign nationals from entering the country following the detection of a new, highly infectious variant of the coronavirus, first discovered in the UK but now also found in Canada and Sweden.

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Canada, France, Japan, Spain and Norway have found small numbers of infections involving a new, potentially more transmissible variant of the coronavirus, most linked to travel from Britain, where it was first detected.

The rapid spread of the variant led to the lockdown of London and southern England, prompted a temporary French blockade of the English Channel and resulted in countries around the world barring travellers coming from Britain.

Because few countries have the level of genomic surveillance that Britain does, there is concern that the variant may have been travelling across the world undetected for weeks.

A recent study by British scientists found no evidence that the variant was more deadly than others but estimated that it was 56 per cent more contagious.

The British variant has been diagnosed in seven people in Japan, the country's health ministry said.

In Spain, the variant was found in the capital region, local authorities said on Saturday.

In France, the first case of the new variant was identified on Friday, according to the country's health ministry.

Officials in Sweden said on Saturday that a case of the variant had been detected there, Reuters reported.

Health officials in Ontario, Canada, said on Saturday that they had confirmed two cases of the variant in the province.

And on Sunday (Dec 27), the Institute of Public Health in Oslo reported that two travellers from Britain who had entered Norway this month had the new variant, according to Reuters.

It is normal for viruses to mutate, and most of the coronavirus mutations have proved minor.
The British variant has a constellation of 23 mutations, several of which might alter its transmissibility.

Vaccine experts are confident that the available vaccines will be able to block the new variant, although that has to be confirmed by laboratory experiments that are now under way.

Germany, the Netherlands, Lebanon, Australia and Singapore have identified infections with the new variant.

And Denmark, which has wider genomic surveillance than many other countries, detected 33 cases of it from Nov 14 to Dec 14, according to Danish health authorities.

The United States has not yet reported any cases of the British variant.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.