And what else you need to know today. Want to get The Morning by email? Here’s the sign-up. This simple chart shows why the new variants of the coronavirus — first detected in Britain and South Africa — are so worrisome:
This simple chart shows why the new variants of the coronavirus first detected in Britain and South Africa are so worrisome:By The New York Times | Sources: Local and national governments and health organizations, World Bank
The chart compares the spread of the virus in each of those two countries with the spread in a group of nearby countries. As you can see, cases have surged in Britain and South Africa since the variants first surfaced while holding fairly steady in the rest of western Europe and southern Africa.
The new variants may not be the only reason. Britain and South Africa differ from their neighbors in other ways, as well. But there is no obvious explanation for the contrast besides the virus's mutations.
This suggests the rest of the world may now be at risk of a new Covid-19 surge.
The variants already seem to have spread around much of the world. More than 30 other countries, including the U.S., have diagnosed cases with the variant first detected in Britain, which is known as B.1.1.7. Scientists say that it could soon become the dominant form of the virus.
The B.1.1.7 variant appears to be between 10 percent and 60 percent more transmissible than the original version. One possible reason: It may increase the amount of the virus that infected people carry in their noses and throats, which in turn would raise the likelihood that they infect others through breathing, talking, sneezing, coughing and so on.
As I've explained before, the biggest factor that will determine how many mo...