The highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus first detected in England had by Saturday been documented in several European countries, as well as Canada, Japan, Australia and Lebanon, despite efforts to curb its spread through massive global disruptions in travel and movement.
Fears over the fast-spreading form of the virus come in sharp contrast to a wave of hope sweeping some countries and communities as vaccination programs are rolled out. Scientists do not think the British variant is more deadly or resistant to the current coronavirus vaccines.
The variant has also been detected in France, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.
In Canada, Ontario’s chief medical officer announced Saturday that they had confirmed two cases, the first detection of the variant in North America. The patient, a couple, had no known travel history, meaning it was probably a case of community spread.
While the United States has not yet reported a case, experts say it is probably because of the nation’s very low rate of genetic sequencing of the virus to check for such changes, despite Americans leading the world in coronavirus infections and deaths.