The rapidly spreading coronavirus strain first identified in the UK has now reached Canada and Japan, after cases surfaced in some European countries.
Health officials in Canada said a couple in Ontario were infected with the coronavirus variant, but they had no known travel history or high-risk contact.
The couple were placed in isolation and the provincial government said in a news release that there was no evidence to suggest that the vaccines approved by Health Canada would be less effective against the new variant.
POP ON CORONAVIRUS VACCINE: NEEDED, VULNERABLE MUST COME FIRST
Japan, meanwhile, is blocking access to all foreign nationals from abroad as a precaution against the new variant. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the access ban will start on Monday and will last until 31 January.
Last week, the country banned foreign nationals from Britain and South Africa after the new variant was confirmed in seven people over the past two days – five from Britain were positive at airports and two others in Tokyo.
Japan also suspends the release of a 14-day quarantine for Japanese citizens and foreigners in a short-haul program that began in November. Participants must now provide proof of a negative test 72 hours before departure to Japan and isolate themselves two weeks after arrival.
Several European countries – including Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and France – have reported infections related to people who have recently arrived from the UK
In Spain, four cases were confirmed in Madrid. None of the patients, who had all traveled from the UK, were seriously ill.
Switzerland, which kept its ski slopes open for tourism during the winter holidays, has identified three cases, two of which are known as British citizens who have been among the thousands of tourists from Britain in the last few weeks.
In Sweden, a traveler returning from the UK is isolating himself after being diagnosed with the new strain.
DISTRIBUTING CORONAVIRUS VARIANT IN UK: ALL YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
The variant, called VUI-202012/01, has experts who are concerned because it is believed to be up to 70% more transmissible. News about the variant has caused travel restrictions around the world, including the United States.
Scientists are investigating whether the new strain is behind an increase in new cases of coronavirus in California. On Christmas Eve, the state has carried out more than 2 million COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.
“It happened quickly devastatingly. Everyone I spoke to said that this acceleration exceeded all models and expectations, and then people said ‘What broke?’ and I have to think it’s partly the tension that was there, ‘said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in an interview with The Los Angeles Times.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
From Monday, the US will require all airline passengers arriving from Britain to test negative for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their departure.
The new rule applies to Americans as well as foreign nationals, and will require passengers to provide evidence of a negative result during a genetic test, known as a PCR or antigen test.
“This additional testing requirement will strengthen our protection of the U.S. public to improve their health and safety and ensure responsible international travel,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.