A pedestrian wearing a face mask walks across Westminster bridge in central London on January 8, 2021, as England entered a third lockdown.
  • The number of new coronavirus cases has soared — almost doubled — since the new, more infectious variant was announced on December 14, according to stats from the UK government.
  • The UK government tightened restrictions in December and enforced a national lockdown on January 4 to try to curb the virus' spread following the variant's discovery.
  • The variant is called B.1.1.7 or VUI 202012/01 — Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01. Scientists worldwide are urgently investigating how its 23 mutations affect its behavior, including its infectivity.
  • The variant has been discovered in several US states, as well as countries around the world.
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The number of people infected with coronavirus in the UK has almost doubled in roughly 4 weeks, according to stats released by the UK government.

UK health secretary health Matt Hancock announced the discovery of the new variant called B.1.1.7 or VUI 20212/01 - Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01 - on December 14. 

Between December 14 to January 12, the number of new cases testing positive for SARS-CoV2 - severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, the novel coronavirus -  increased from 21,502 to 45,533, per the UK government.

The new variant is thought to be 30-50% more contagious than other forms of the virus, according to a Public Health England. Precisely how or why B.1.1.7 is more contagious is not yet known.

The variant has been found in multiple US states, including New York, Florida, and California. Experts believe it has been circulating in the US for several weeks.

The figures reported in the graph include people testing positive from nasal swabs that go to the lab, as well as from the quicker lateral flow tests. It is not clear from the dataset how people who tested positive more than once were counted.

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