Proliferation of the highly contagious novel coronavirus strain, first detected in Britain, has now been confirmed in 41 countries and territories, the World Health Organization said in its COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update on Tuesday evening.

“As of 5 January 2021, the VOC-202012/01 variant, initially detected in the United Kingdom, has been detected in a small number of cases in 40 other countries/territories/areas in five of the six WHO regions, and the 501Y.V2 variant, initially detected in South Africa, in six other countries/territories/areas,” the update runs.

According to the WHO bulletin, over the past week – from December 28 to January 3 – the number of people infected with COVID-19 increased globally by 4,035,226, and the number of deaths – by 76,017. Most of the new infections were detected in the Americas – 1,935,621. Europe is in second place (1,553,332), and Southeast Asia third (208,592). Europe’s mortality statistics are the highest: 32,898 patients died there in seven days. North America and South America are second (32,283), Southeast Asia, third (3,756).

The United States ranks first in the world in terms of the number of new infections per week – 1,325,424. Further on the list are Great Britain (343,784), Brazil (252,018), Russia (186,539), India (136,115), Germany (124,808), Italy (102,442), Turkey (98,662), South Africa (93,978) and France (91,595). The highest death rate in seven days was recorded in the United States (17,239), followed by Brazil (4,923), Mexico (4,670), Germany (4,494), Great Britain (4,165), Russia (3,728), Italy (3,365), South Africa (2,654), France (2,346) and Poland (2,001).

On December 14, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said British scientists had identified a new coronavirus strain that might be to blame for high infection rates in southeastern England. Hancock said preliminary analysis indicated that the newly-discovered virus strain was spreading faster than any of those exposed previously. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told an urgent news conference on December 19 that according to the current findings the new strain might be 70% more contagious. He added that British experts had not yet found any proof that the virus mutation was fraught with a greater risk of lethal outcome.

The South African authorities on December 21 said that the second wave of the pandemic was due to a mutated coronavirus, detected in the south of the country in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, Eastern Cape Province on the Indian Ocean. Local scientists say the new strain harms mostly young people.