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Photo: Ivan Marc (Shutterstock) A new variant of the coronavirus was discovered in the UK, and scientists think it may be more infectious than the more other lineages of the virus that are more common across the world. So how big a deal is this? The short answer: We don’t entirely know yet. What we know On December 8, Science reports , scientists and public health experts saw a map that showed an area in southeast England was experiencing an uptick in cases. The genetic analysis of the virus that was spreading there showed that it was unexpectedly different from others that are in circulation elsewhere. There is a concern that the uptick in cases may be because this variant is more transmissible than others. That’s not totally clear yet. But several European countries have now blocked travel in an attempt to keep the new variant out. Are mutations bad? Not necessarily. Viruses mutate all the time, and the coronavirus is no exception. Scientists are able to track the spread of the virus in part through sequencing its genome. If two people have COVID, and their viruses are identical or nearly so, they probably got it from the same place. If each of them has a different variant of the virus, they probably got it from different sources. You can see a giant family tree of all the world’s coronavirus mutations here . So in this sense, mutations are happening all the time, but so far that really hasn’t […]