UK health officials announced in December that a ‘variant of concern’ had emerged in  the county of Kent. 

Scientists refer to the variant as B.1.1.7. This is derived by its location of most significant mutations. 

B117 seems to be more infectious that older ‘wild-type” coronavirus variants. 

It is estimated to be about 70% more contagious, but some studies suggest that it could be twice so infectious. However, more moderate projections indicate that it is only about 56% more transmissible. 

B117 quickly became the dominant case in the UK and accounts for at least 90% in the European country. 

It has been identified in more than 70 countries including the US where the CDC estimates that the variant accounts for at least 44%.

Although the mutations made the variant more infectious, they didn’t appear to have any effect on the chances of severe COVID-19 and death. 

According to UK health officials, it could be up to 40% more fatal than the average. This is based on how many people are infected. The mortality rate of people who are hospitalized with B.1.1.7 is approximately 5%. The UK’s mortality rate for B.1.1.7 patients is the same as that for older variants. 

Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US infectious disease expert, remarked that it could be even more deadly after reviewing the data from the UK. 

He and UK officials insist that other variants are more dangerous because they could make vaccines less effective, which is not the case with the UK variant. 


On December 18, South Africa announced a new variant. 

It shares a mutation that is identical to the UK variant in a place on its genome called 501Y, but also has many other mutations. 

The South African variant is more contagious than the North African and is already dominating there. 

It has spread to at most 20 countries, including the US. However, the CDC estimates that the variant is only 0.7% of all cases. 

In January, President Joe Biden imposed a travel ban on South African citizens in an attempt to stop the importation. 

Dr Fauci said that the South African variant of the virus is the most alarming because it could make vaccines less effective due mutations that allow it to ‘hide from’ antibodies that have been developed after vaccinations or previous bouts of COVID-19. 


International attention was first drawn to the variant when four travelers from Brazil arrived in Tokyo on January 2nd and tested positive for the variant. 

The variant has the same spike protein mutation as the highly transmissible versions found in Kent and South Africa – named N501Y – which makes the spike better able to bind to receptors inside the body. 

COVID-19 has destroyed Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city. Brazilian officials claim that hospitals are running out oxygen and that the country is in a crisis. 

The new variant is responsible for almost half of all cases. It is thought to make vaccines less effective and more contagious. 

It has spread to at most 15 countries, including the U.S.A., where it has been the second-most prevalent variant, accounting for between 1 and 2 percent of all cases.