British virus variant now in 50 countries; South African in 20

The coronavirus mutation first found in Britain has now spread to 50 territories, according to the World Health Organization, while a similar South African-identified strain has now been found in 20. Both have been found in Israel.

The UN body also notes a third new coronavirus “variant of concern” found in Japan may impact upon immune response and needs further investigation.

“The more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge,” says the WHO.

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

A healthcare workers takes swab samples from Israelis at a coronavirus testing center in Jerusalem on January 11, 2021. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Since first being reported to the WHO on December 14, the British-identified variant VOC 202012/01 has been found in 50 countries, territories and areas, the agency says.

Test results show the age and sex distribution is similar to that of other circulating variants, while contact tracing data reveals “higher transmissibility (secondary attack rates) where the index case has the variant strain.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.