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.
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.
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.
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 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.