30/12/2020 3:02 PM AEDT

New COVID-19 Variant From UK Confirmed In US, South Africa Variant Confirmed In Australia

A male in his 20s has tested positive for the more contagious variant in Colorado.

Britain and South Africa have separately reported fast-spreading variants of the coronavirus, prompting some nations to ban travel to the two countries amid fears a more-virulent virus could exacerbate strapped health care systems. 

The first confirmed case of the new, more transmissible COVID-19 variant first discovered in the UK has been discovered in the United States.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis said Tuesday that a state laboratory confirmed the variant known as B.1.1.7 in a male in his 20s, who is currently in isolation in Elbert County.

State authorities say the man had no travel history, and so far, no close contacts have been identified.

The mutant COVID-19 variant has already been detected in at least 18 other countries, including the United Kingdom. 

Denver International Airport isn’t currently operating a direct flight to the United Kingdom, the Colorado Sun notes, though direct flights to some other countries, including Canada, are available.

A couple in Ontario, Canada, tested positive for B.1.1.7 earlier this week.

“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,” Polis said in a statement. “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.”

Researchers in the UK warned last week that B.1.1.7 is around 56% more contagious than the initial strain of the coronavirus that first emerged late last year in China. So far, however, the mutations do not appear to make it more deadly.

Recently approved COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna are expected to be effective against the new strain.

Meanwhile a separate variant known as 501.V2, first found in South Africa, is causing concern in countries such as Australia. 

Queensland health authorities said the first Australian case is a woman who arrived in the state on December 22 and went straight into hotel quarantine.  

With files from Reuters 

Never miss a thing. Sign up to HuffPost Australia’s weekly newsletter for the latest news, exclusives and guides to achieving the good life.