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US records first case of Covid variant first seen in UK
30 December 2020, 00:24 | Updated: 30 December 2020, 00:34
A man with no travel history has become the first person in the US to test positive for the new Covid variant that was first seen in Britain.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced that the man, said to be in his 20s, had become the United States' first confirmed case of the mutant strain of coronavirus.
He has been isolating in the south-east of Denver and had not travelled abroad, suggesting he is likely to have caught it from someone else.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was notified by the Colorado State Laboratory who confirmed the Covid-19 variant.
UK scientists have warned that the new Sars-CoV-2 strain is more contagious than others that have emerged and that it likely explains the rapid transmission of cases in London, the South East and the East of England.
They have also said that there is currently no evidence to suggest vaccines are less effective against the variant, a position echoed by Colorado health officials.
Today we discovered Colorado’s first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same variant discovered in the UK.— Governor Jared Polis (@GovofCO) December 29, 2020
The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority and we will monitor this case, as well as all COVID-19 indicators, very closely. pic.twitter.com/fjyq7QhzBi
US public health officials are investigating other potential infections and performing contract tracing to establish how much it has spread through the state.
In a statement on Twitter, Mr Polis said: "There is a lot we don't know about this new Covid-19 variant, but scientists in the United Kingdom are warning the world that it is significantly more contagious.
"The health and safety of Coloradans is our top priority, and we will closely monitor this case, as well as all Covid-19 indicators, very closely."
The governor and Colorado health officials are set to update the public about the variant on Wednesday.
Its discovery led the CDC to issue new rules on Christmas Day for travellers arriving in the US from the UK, requiring them to show proof of a negative coronavirus test.
Dozens of countries have now banned flights from Britain and vast swathes of southern and eastern England are now living in strict Tier 4 lockdown restrictions due to its spread.
However, scientists have been careful not to raise too much alarm because new variants of viruses are natural as they evolve and move through a population.
The UK strain, known as B.1.1.7, has also been found in Canada, India, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and several European countries.
South Africa has also discovered a highly contagious Covid variant which is driving the country's latest spike of confirmed cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
The strain, known as 501.V2, is dominant among the newly confirmed infections in the country, according to health officials and scientists leading South Africa's virus strategy.