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The highly contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in Britain could “sweep the world” and prolong global efforts to tackle the pandemic, a senior British scientist warned Thursday, as governments moved to tighten restrictions and shutter borders to stop the spread of the new strains.
Sharon Peacock, who heads Britain’s national genomic surveillance program, told BBC News that the variant initially found in southeast England has “swept the country” and is “going to sweep the world, in all probability.”
Her remarks came as both Britain and Germany toughened virus measures amid heightened fears over the threat from new variants, including one first identified in South Africa that has shown resistance to some vaccines. Germany extended lockdown measures for another month despite a drop in cases, while the British government plans to introduce mandatory quarantine and prison sentences for travelers who lie on their entry forms.
Here are some significant developments:
- The prestigious British medical journal The Lancet medical published a peer-reviewed report Thursday that holds Donald Trump accountable for a botched response to the pandemic and other policies it contends cost hundreds of thousands of U.S. lives.
- Britain, besieged by a more contagious coronavirus strain and alarmed by the potential of new and imported variants, is about to launch the toughest travel restrictions in Europe, including mandatory hotel quarantines and 10-year prison terms for those who lie on entry forms.
- The first known cases of the variant discovered in South Africa have been detected in California, one in Santa Clara Country and one in Alameda County, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Wednesday.
- The World Health Organization has recommended the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, saying that it is “highly effective and safe” even as at least one trial showed limited efficacy against the dominant variant in South Africa.
- The United States has recorded more than 27.2 million coronavirus cases and over 470,000 deaths. Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population, however, has so far received at least a first dose of the two-part coronavirus vaccines, CDC data shows and rates of deaths and new cases continue to fall.