Scientific experts have warned the new mutant coronavirus variant is likely to be the "dominant global strain" as a fifth place outside the UK confirmed a case.
SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) revealed the new variant has spread to British Overseas Territory Gibraltar while there have also been confirmed positive tests in Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.
The UK government believes the new variant could be up to 70% more contagious than the original Covid-19 strain.
Its rapid spread has led to a new Tier 4 lockdown being imposed on London and the south east of England, cancelling Christmas for around 20 million people.
Dozens of countries have also cancelled flights arriving from the UK after announcing travel bans.
There have also been unverified reports of cases of the new strain, currently called VUI-202012/01, in Belgium.
SAGE member Professor Calum Semple, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Liverpool, thinks the new variant would "out-compete all the other strains" because it has the advantage of spreading more easily.
He told Sky News: "As immunity comes into the community more widely, then you'll start to see more pressure on the virus and you're more likely to see other escapes of other variations."
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman revealed today that Gibraltar has identified at least one case of the strain.
Italy's health ministry said it had detected a patient with the virus. He flew from the UK to Rome in the last few days with his partner, who did not test positive.
Professor Semple said the new strain should not come as a surprise because the UK deals with evolving variants of the flu virus every year.
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He added: "The flu vaccine typically contains three or four flavours of influenza virus and we simply pick on a best-guess basis each season, and then people that make the vaccines scale up in a timely manner.
"We shouldn't beat ourselves up about this evolving here.
'The fact is we've identified it, we've brought it to national attention, we've got the attention of the politicians and the World Health Organisation in very quick time."
Mr Johnson delivered his bombshell message to the nation on Saturday evening where he placed almost a third of England's population into new Tier 4 lockdown restrictions.
It means people cannot form Christmas bubbles and are not allowed to leave their areas.
Chaotic scenes saw train stations packed full of people attempting to escape London before the new restrictions began while more than 40 countries have banned UK arrivals, including most of Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.
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