Over 30 countries have reported cases of the highly-transmissible UK variant of the novel coronavirus, raising fears of increased global spread of the virus, even as countries begin to unroll vaccination programs in the new year.
Vietnam on Saturday was the latest nation to report a case, which authorities detected in a woman quarantined after recent travel from the United Kingdom. Vietnam has banned nearly all international travel, but it is providing repatriation flights for citizens stranded in the UK.
Turkey reported Friday its first 15 cases of the U.K. variant, found in recent travellers from the UK, leading Turkish authorities to issue a temporary ban on entries from the there. Turkey, along with many other countries, suspended flights between the United Kingdom in late December.
At least three US states have identified cases of the variant. Public health officials, however, say it is likely already spreading undetected due to limited genetic sequencing of the coronavirus in the United States.
The United States leads the world in coronavirus cases and deaths, though widespread transmission of the fast-spreading form of the virus would likely lead to even larger outbreaks, putting further strain on the country’s already overwhelmed health-care system.
In recent weeks British authorities have imposed strict lockdowns on millions of people as the variant, first documented in late September, has led to surges in infections. So far, scientists do not think that the fast-spreading form of the virus is more deadly or vaccine resistant.
As global infections continue to rapidly rise, Ireland has recently gone from having the European Union’s lowest per capita rate of cases to the fastest growing, the Guardian reported.
“The virus is absolutely rampant now in the community,” the CEO of Ireland’s health services Paul Reid said Friday. “Everybody is at extreme risk of contracting the virus.”