The current surge of COVID-19 infections that led to nearly 200 nightlife venues being ordered closed in the capital is being driven by a more contagious variant of coronavirus that set burned across the United Kingdom late last year, a top health official said this afternoon.

Preliminary findings found the virus, known as B.1.1.7, in samples taken from Thonglor and Bang Khae – areas where hundreds have taken ill, mostly at bars and night clubs, Chulalongkorn University professor Yong Poovorawan said.

Known for spreading more easily than the original strain of COVID-19, the variant emerged in the United Kingdom in September 2020 and is believed to be over 50% more contagious. It has since spread across the world but is not believed to be more dangerous or fatal. 

Its first known case in Thailand was found in January in a family of four British nationals in state quarantine upon arriving from the United Kingdom.

There have been no reports yet of a more deadlier strain spreading globally since it was first detected in Brazil.

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