The British variant of the COVID-19 virus, thought by scientists to be much more contagious, has been found in France and Russia, according to news reports Sunday.
Russia, which has recorded more than 3 million cases of the virus, had already suspended flights from Britain until January 13 and is mandating a two-week isolation period for those traveling from Britain.
Meanwhile, Britain continues to grapple with high numbers of cases and deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, with many hospitals at capacity while lockdowns are in effect.
“The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said over the weekend.
The British variant of the virus has been found in 45 countries and at least eight states in the U.S. Another variant of the virus discovered in South Africa was found in some positive cases in Ireland Sunday.
Yet a third new variant has been found in Japan in travelers from Brazil.
Takaji Wakita, head of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said Sunday the newly discovered variant is different from the ones that have been identified in Britain and South Africa, but the three variants share a common mutation.
While the variants are worrisome, they are not unexpected. The coronavirus has made thousands of tiny modifications since it was first discovered, researchers say.
Also Sunday, Pope Francis said the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine is a matter of ethics.
“It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” Francis said at the Vatican in an interview with Italian television station Canale 5.
Vatican City is set to begin its a vaccine campaign this week, and Francis said he already has an appointment.
Johns Hopkins University reported Sunday that there are more than 90 million global COVID-19 cases. The U.S. has the most cases with more than 22 million, followed by India with more than 10 million and Brazil with more than 8 million.
The African continent confirmed a total of 3 million cases of the virus on Sunday, as many countries are beginning to mark a second wave of infections and impose restrictions.
On Sunday, Algeria registered Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus for use, the first African country to do so, Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund said.
Algeria’s president was flown to Germany on Sunday for treatment of complications from COVID-19.