Researchers have found the new and more infectious variant of Covid-19 has already spread around the UK, with cases identified in south Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium sampled cases around the UK and found the variant in the South West, Midlands and North of England – areas that are under Tier 2 and 3 restrictions.
London and parts of South East England were put under tougher Tier 4 restrictions last Sunday due to concerns over the new strain which scientists believe is spreading more quickly than the previous form.
It could mean more areas are placed under stricter measures, but Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has said no rule changes will come into force before Christmas Day.
Here's the full list of areas in the UK that the new strain has been identified, according to data by the COG-UK monitoring group:
Six areas in Glasgow and in the surrounding areas - Linwood, Newton Mearns, Airdrie, Bonhill and Lenzie.
Near Rothbury in rural Northumberland
Gateshead, near Low Fell
Bishop Auckland in County Durham
Near Penrith in Cumbria
Hurst Green in Lancashire
Pocklington, near Hull
Near Crosby and Kirkby, Merseyside
Near Maltby in South Yorkshire
Near Matlock in Derbyshire
Near Eakring in Nottinghamshire
Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire
Near Stafford in Staffordshire
Upper Hambleton, near Oakham
Dereham near Norwich
Stowmarket near Ipswich
Near Willingham in Cambridgeshire
Kenilworth near Coventry
Near the Oldbury area of Birmingham
Newbury near Thatcham
New Alresford, near Winchester
Welwyn Garden City near St Albans
Stagsden near Bedford
A positive test for the new variant of Covid-19 has been detected in Northern Ireland, after genome analysis was conducted on a small number of suspected cases.
It is understood health officials believe the strain has been in circulation at a low level in Northern Ireland for several weeks.
But it has not been confirmed where in Northern Ireland the case was detected.
Jeffrey Barrett, lead Covid-19 statistical geneticist at COG-UK warned that there was a lag in the sequence data being sampled.
The most recent data in the study was from the first week of December when England came out of the second national lockdown.
Dr Barrett said more up-to-date data from community testing also found one of the mutations of this variant is "present in very many different places in England".
Professor Tom Connor, a genomics expert from Cardiff University, said this was the same for Scotland, and Wales – which has sequenced more viruses in the past week than the whole of France since March.
Health chiefs in Cumbria have said the new variant is in the county and could be behind some sharp increases in new cases.
Director of public health for Cumbria Colin Cox said in the district of Eden rates had risen to 345 cases per 100,000 people, the highest seen in Cumbria to date.
Lancashire’s director of public health Sakthi Karunanithi said there was a “high likelihood” the new variant was in the county.
The data showed there had been a sample collected in Manchester after mayor Andy Burnham said there was no evidence the strain has reached the area but said what public health directors “want to emphasise is it is safe for people to assume that it is already here or it is about to arrive".
Sharon Peacock, director of COG-UK and a professor of public health and microbiology at the University of Cambridge said there was no evidence to suggest the new variant caused higher mortality, and no reason to believe the vaccine being rolled out in the UK will not be effective.
However, Prof Connor warned not enough time has passed to know whether the variant leads to a worse outcome for infected people.
He said: “When you’re talking about outcome you’re normally looking at 28 days after the person has been diagnosed – with a lot of these cases popping up in late December we’re not at that point where you would have that outcome information to do that analysis yet.”
Dr Barrett said 23 mutations of the virus were detected “all at once”, which is rare, suggesting it did not happen by coincidence.
He said: “It suggests that something happened – we don’t know what that something is, that produced this variant, and it doesn’t happen that often because we haven’t seen it before.
“I think the conjunction of very rapid spread and a lot of mutations makes this less and less likely to be just a coincidence.”
New variants have been found in other countries including South Africa, Denmark and the Netherlands which led to Germany banning travel from those countries.
The Cabinet’s Covid operations committee is meeting on Wednesday to consider the latest data on the spread of the virus.