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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.

  • The strain, called B.1.1.7, spurred a cases spike that saw tens of millions of people in England and Wales lock down over the holidays.
  • Some officials worry it may have been spreading unnoticed worldwide, as few countries have the kind of sophisticated genomic surveillance that enabled British scientists to find the variant, per the New York Times.

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

Jan 26, 2021 - Health

U.K. surpasses 100,000 COVID-19 deaths

Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

The U.K. on Tuesday surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths almost a year after the first two cases were reported in the country, according to government figures.

Why it matters: It is the first European country and fifth country in the world to reach the threshold. The country reported 100,162 deaths on Tuesday.

Scammers have stolen over $130 million in coronavirus-related schemes

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Over 100,000 Americans have collectively reported roughly $132 million in fraud losses from scams related to the coronavirus and government stimulus checks since the March start of the pandemic, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Coronavirus-related fraud complaints peaked in May when the IRS began sending its first round of stimulus checks. Congress recently proposed a second round of stimulus.