Britain begins a door-to-door COVID-19 testing of 80,000 people on Tuesday in a bid to stem the spread of a variant of the novel coronavirus first identified in South Africa.
Public Health England said it had identified a total of 105 cases of the variant since Dec. 22, and to contain new outbreaks, residents in eight areas of the country will now be tested whether or not they are showing symptoms, a process known as “surge testing.”
There are about 10,000 people in each area, three of which are in London, two of which are in the southeast, one of which is in central England, one of which is in the east and another of which is in the northwest.
Those in the affected areas will be tested, even if they are asymptomatic, to break any chain of transmission in the community.
“It is concerning — it’s deeply concerning,” junior education minister Michelle Donelan told Sky. “It’s still a very perilous stage of this virus and we’ve got these new variants spreading.”
The number of new coronavirus cases in Britain is levelling out or falling after a surge in infections at the end of last year, fuelled by a more transmissible variant found in the southeast of England.
Britain is rolling out a mass vaccination program, with nearly 9.3 million people having received the first shot, and the government and health officials are concerned new variants would undermine its efforts to bring the pandemic under control.
However, there has been criticism that ministers have been too slow to bring in measures to quarantine travellers arriving from overseas who might bring new strains of the virus with them.
Scientists have said the variant first detected in South Africa appears to be more transmissible, but there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease. However, several laboratory studies have found that it reduces vaccine and antibody therapy efficacy.
-From Reuters, last updated at 7:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening in Canada
WATCH | Manitoba begins COVID-19 vaccine rollout in hard-hit, remote First Nations:
As of early Tuesday morning, Canada had reported 783,589 cases of COVID-19, with 51,745 considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 20,136.
Quebec Premier François Legault is expected to announce some changes to COVID-19 restrictions later Tuesday.
Health officials in Quebec reported 890 new cases Monday — the first time since early November that Quebec has reported fewer than 1,000 daily new cases — and 32 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.
Ontario has recorded its first case of the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa, saying a case was detected in Peel Region.
The province’s top doctor said the person neither travelled nor had any known contact with anyone who travelled. Dr. David Williams said data from South Africa shows the variant may be more infectious.
Ontario, which reported 1,969 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, had reported a total of 69 total cases of the variant first reported in the U.K. as of Sunday.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported eight new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, Prince Edward Island reported two new cases and Nova Scotia reported one new case. There were no new cases reported in Newfoundland and Labrador.
WATCH | Experts worry travel restrictions leave holes in preventing COVID-19 spread:
Here’s a look at what’s happening across the country:
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:45 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 103.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide with more than 57.4 million of those cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracking tool. The global death toll stood at more than 2.2 million.
In Europe, Estonia said it will allow passengers arriving to the country with a proof of COVID-19 vaccination to omit the quarantine requirement. Health officials of the Baltic country said that proof isn’t restricted only to those vaccine suppliers approved in the European Union but proof from any of the global vaccine suppliers would be accepted. However, Estonia’s health board said that certificate of vaccination from foreign nationals has to meet certain criteria, including language.
Vaccination certificates must be in either in Estonian, Russian — which is widely spoken in Estonia — or English. Hanna Sepp, head of the Health Board’s infectious diseases unit, told the Estonian public broadcaster ERR that the certificate has to indicate the disease against which the person has been vaccinated, when the vaccine was formulated and which manufacturer’s vaccine was used. It also has to include data on the issuer of the vaccine and the vaccine batch number.
In the Middle East, Dubai will start vaccinating people with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, the state media office said on Tuesday as the United Arab Emirates battles its biggest outbreak since the pandemic began.
The first shipment has arrived from India, the state media office said in a tweet. It did not provide details on how many doses were received or when inoculations would start.
In Africa, Zimbabwe will have access to a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine soon, China’s ambassador in Harare said, as Beijing ramps up its availability to developing nations.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Malaysia’s government extended a lockdown and broad movement restrictions by two weeks as a surge in infections has pushed the cumulative total past 200,000 cases.
China reported the fewest new COVID-19 cases in a month as imported cases overtook local infections, official data showed on Tuesday, suggesting its worst wave since March 2020 is being stamped out ahead of an important holiday.
In the Americas, the U.S. government promised undocumented migrants the same access to COVID-19 vaccines as other civilians and said inoculation centres would be immigration enforcement-free zones.
-From The Associated Press and Reuter, last updated at 7:50 a.m. ET