- The identification of a new Covid variant comes as countries scramble to contain two other contagious strains that have emerged in the U.K. and South Africa.
- Public health experts have expressed concern the fresh strains could pose a threat to inoculation efforts.
- In recent weeks, optimism about the mass rollout of coronavirus vaccines appears to have been tempered by the resurgent rate of virus spread worldwide.
A station staff wearing a face mask makes an announcement through a microphone near the gate Japan has declared the state of emergency in Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures on Thursday, marking the countrys second soft lockdown after the first emergency was declared in April 2020.Jinhee Lee | LightRocket | Getty Images
LONDON — Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases on Sunday said it had detected a new variant of the coronavirus in four travelers arriving from Brazil.
The newly discovered mutant strain of Covid-19 was found to share some of the mutations in common with those of concern for increased infectivity, the institute said, referring to highly infectious variants recently discovered in the U.K. and South Africa.
However, at this time any information about the new variant is limited to its genetic makeup, the NIID said. The institute added it is difficult to immediately determine how infectious the new strain is and the effectiveness of vaccines against it.
The World Health Organization has been contacted by CNBC to confirm whether it has been informed about the new mutant strain of the virus. The United Nations health agency was not immediately available to respond on Monday morning.
The WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus later said during a press briefing on Monday that the agency had been alerted over the weekend of a new coronavirus mutation found in Japan. He said the new, contagious strains are "highly problematic" if allowed to burden hospitals already under intense pressure.
"The more the virus spreads, the higher the chance of new changes to the virus," Tedros said at the WHO's headquarters in Geneva.
Japan's identification of a new variant of the virus comes as countries scramble to contain two other contagious strains that have emerged in the U.K. and South Africa. Public health experts have expressed concern the fresh variants could pose a threat to inoculation efforts.