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A COVID-19 assessment center in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Zou Zheng/Xinhua via GettyImages

Cases of a new variant of COVID-19 first detected in England were confirmed by health officials in Canada, Japan and several more European Union countries Saturday.

Why it matters: While there's no evidence the variant is more deadly than the original strain, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement that it could be 70% more transmissible prompted dozens of countries to ban travel from the United Kingdom.

What’s happening: The Public Health Agency of Canada confirmed the first two cases in North America of the new coronavirus strain Saturday evening, in the province of Ontario.

  • The agency noted in a statement "these two cases did not travel outside of Canada."

Officials in Japan said Saturday the country would close its border to all non-resident foreign nationals from midnight Monday through Jan. 31 after seven people tested positive for the variant, broadcaster NHK reports.

In Spain, Madrid's regional government announced Saturday that four people had become infected with the B.1.1.7 strain, according to Al Jazeera.

Sweden's Public Health Agency said Saturday the strain had been detected in a newly returned traveler from the U.K., Reuters notes.

France's health ministry confirmed the first B.1.1.7 case in the country late Friday, per AFP.

For the record: Coronavirus vaccines are starting to be rolled out across North America, European Union countries and nations around the world.

  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Saturday, "Vaccination is the lasting way out of the pandemic."
  • There's no evidence the B.1.1.7 strain can affect the effectiveness of these vaccinations.

Go deeper

19 hours ago - Axios Tampa Bay

Florida's COVID-19 comeback

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Tampa Bay region may be looking at some increased pandemic restrictions, though they're unlikely to come from the state government.

What's happening: Friday was Florida's worst day yet for coronavirus, with the state reporting 21,683 new cases — the highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic.

20 hours ago - Podcasts

A reality check on the Delta variant

You may have seen the very scary headlines this weekend about the COVID-19 Delta variant. One of those was out of Florida, which reported its highest number of new COVID cases since the pandemic began. And last Wednesday, Texas reported more than 10,000 new COVID cases, its highest total for a single day since February. In D.C., the indoor mask mandate for those vaccinated went back into effect, as it did for many other parts of the country.

  • Plus, the Biden administration’s messy COVID messaging.
  • And, why the pandemic means less long-distance romance.

Guests: Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News' chief Washington correspondent and host of What the Health podcast, and Axios' Erica Pandey.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, Alex Sugiura, and Michael Hanf. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Raven Saunders: U.S. athletes planned "X" protests "for weeks"

Team USA's Raven Saunders makes an "X'" gesture during the medal ceremony for the Women's Shot Put at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday. Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Raven Saunders, the American Olympian facing a possible investigation for making a protest gesture on the podium over the weekend, told the New York Times Monday that U.S. athletes had planned "for weeks" to demonstrate against oppression.

Why it matters: Protests are banned at the Tokyo Games. Saunders told the NYT a group of American Olympians had settled on the "X" symbol, which she gestured on the podium after winning silver in the shot put Sunday, to represent "unity with oppressed people."