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UK’s new faster-spreading COVID strain found in Japan, Canada, possibly parts of US

A new faster-spreading COVID-19 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom has reportedly been detected in other corners of the world, including Canada and Japan.

What are the details?

Officials in Ontario, Canada, over the weekend announced that they had detected two cases of the new coronavirus strain, called B.1.1.7, which health experts say is 40%-70% more infectious than the original strain.

The two cases were carried by a couple in southern Ontario who reportedly had no known travel history, exposure, or high-risk contact.

“As the monitoring continues, it is expected that other cases of this variant and other variants of concern may be found in Canada,” the Public Health Agency of Canada said in a statement. “Furthermore, as these two cases did not travel outside of Canada, it is important to follow public health measures and limit contacts with others, to reduce the transmission of the virus and any of its variants in communities.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Japan moved to close the country’s border to all non-resident foreign nationals through next month, as seven people in the country tested positive for the new variant.

Several other European countries, including France, Spain, and Sweden, also reported confirmed cases of the strain over the last several days.

What else?

The news comes after numerous countries around the world closed their borders to travel from the U.K. due to concerns over the new strain.

U.K. officials first raised the alarm about the variant earlier this month after it reportedly spread across 60 council areas in southeast England. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that while “initial analysis suggests that this variant is growing faster than the existing variants,” more testing needed to be conducted.

So far, health experts are confident that the new strain, though more infectious, does not result in a worse disease and is not resistant to a vaccine.

Anything else?

On Saturday, health officials in Los Angeles County began testing virus samples out of suspicion that the new strain is what’s driving a surge in confirmed COVID-19 cases in southern California.

While to date, no confirmed cases of the new strain have been discovered in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested it’s likely the variant has been present in the country for weeks but has simply gone undetected.

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