A new variant of coronavirus first discovered in the UK – known as B.1.1.7 or VOC 202012/01 – has been found in at least 50 countries, as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to the World Health Organization.
Experts say that while the variant appears to be more transmissible than other strains, there is no evidence it’s deadlier or causes more severe disease.
“Since first detected on 14 December 2020, VOC 202012/01 has been detected in 50 countries, territories and areas across five of the six WHO regions to date. In England, the variant has been detected in all regions and almost all local authorities,” WHO said in its weekly report on the pandemic.
This is a separate variant from one first identified in South Africa, which has been detected in 20 countries, WHO said.
“It is well known that viruses constantly change through mutation, and so the emergence of new variants is an expected occurrence. Many mutations have no impact on the virus itself while some could be detrimental to the virus and few may result in an advantage to the virus,” WHO said.
In the United States, the variant has been detected in at least 11 states including hotspots like New York, California and Florida.