The United Nations health agency warns that a new variant is circulating in 10 more countries compared to last week.
The faster-spreading variant of the British coronavirus has now been found in at least 60 countries, 10 more from a week ago, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
With the worldwide death toll now well over two million and new variants of the virus cause great concern, countries around the world are wondering how to slow infections until vaccines are widely available.
the South African strain, 501Y.V2, which, like the UK, is believed to be more infectious but does not appear to be more deadly, has now been reported in 23 countries and territories, the WHO said in its weekly update.
He added that the number of new deaths reached a record high of 93,000 in the previous seven days, with 4.7 million new cases in the same period.
The WHO believes the British strain, first detected in mid-December, is between 50 and 70% more infectious than the original.
The strains share a common mutation, which scientists call N501Y. This is a slight alteration in one part of the spike protein that covers the virus. It is believed that this change is the reason why these strains can spread so easily.
Most of the vaccines being deployed around the world train the body to recognize and fight this spike protein. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have said their vaccines are effective against the mutation found on the British virus variant.
The arrival of mass vaccination campaigns in the United States and Europe raised hopes that the end of the pandemic was in sight.
The European Union said on Tuesday it aimed to vaccinate 70% of its adult population by the end of August. EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that the target over the next four months could be “a turning point in our fight against this virus”.
But many countries in the EU and other countries, including India and Russia, have struggled to get their immunization programs started.
The United States remains the world’s worst epidemic in aggregate numbers. As US President-elect Joe Biden prepared to move to the White House on Tuesday, the country took a critical step 400,000 dead. Biden has already made it known that he will not take any risks after his inauguration on Wednesday.
The past few days have also seen renewed attention to the initial outbreak a year ago, with China defends its manipulation of the virus after independent experts criticized the speed of its response.
WHO’s actions in the early stages of the pandemic were also reviewed by an independent panel, with experts questioning why the UN health agency had not convened an emergency committee earlier and why it did not did not qualify the epidemic as a pandemic before the beginning of March 2020.