A highly infectious new COVID-19 strain has caused some countries to ban U.K. travelers from entering, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The new strain, according to the British government, per WSJ, is spreading 70 percent faster than the earlier variants of the virus. There has been a surge in cases in London connected to the new strain, with recorded cases rising 51 percent in the week to Sunday (Dec. 20).
The countries that have thus far banned travel from the U.K. include Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands and Belgium, WSJ reported. The U.S. has not made such a move as of Sunday.
Viruses are known to continuously mutate, and scientists look out for the new mutations to detect how the virus behaves. WSJ reported that the new strain hasn’t been identified in the U.S. yet.
But the arrival of a new strain does pose challenges to suppressing the pandemic, WSJ reported, and without new vaccines coming yet, restrictions could continue through the new year. Although British scientists say there’s no evidence the new strain of the virus causes more serious infections or that vaccines won’t work on it, the faster spread will make it harder to control.
In response, the British government has instituted new lockdowns, closing nonessential retail and nixing plans to allow a five-day break of restrictions over Christmas so families could meet up from up to three households, according to WSJ.
Vaccinations have already begun in the U.K., though, and with them have come the two-pronged task of handling the storage and distribution to get vaccines where they need to go and assure people that they’re safe to take.
PYMNTS reported that the latter task might involve recruiting influential people such as athletes, social media influencers and more, in order to reach wide swathes of people who might not be sure about taking the vaccine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that it will still likely take months more to fully vaccinate everyone who needs it.