The coronavirus variant first detected in Britain is now spreading in at least 114 countries, and nowhere are its devastating effects as visible as in Europe, where thousands are dying each day and already-battered economies are being hit by new restrictions on daily life.
The variant, known as B.1.1.7, is not only more contagious than the virus’s initial form, but is also deadlier.
With the mutation now propelling a surge in cases in Europe — the epicenter of the pandemic last spring — an interactive article by The New York Times’s graphics team outlines the toll that the B.1.1.7 variant is taking on the continent, and lessons that it might offer the world.
Having surged in Britain starting in December, the variant also seeded outbreaks across the continent, but many went unnoticed behind an overall drop in cases. Those outbreaks have since ballooned, and B.1.1.7 has crowded out other versions of the virus, becoming dominant in more than a dozen European countries.
Despite watching the B.1.1.7 variant wallop Britain, lawmakers in continental Europe were slow to react. In late January, President Emmanuel Macron of France defied calls from his scientific advisers for new restrictions. Now, daily cases have doubled, hospitals are swelling with patients and Mr. Macron has imposed a third national lockdown.
“What’s surprising to me is how many countries didn’t anticipate what B.1.1.7 would bring,” said Devi Sridhar, a professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “People underestimated it, instead of saying we should learn from what’s happening in the U.K.”