The British variant of the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 disease could be the dominant strain in the United States by March, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC report published on Friday warned of the emergence of the variant known as B.1.1.7. which transmits more easily, causing daily case totals to spike again in spring.
"Variant B.1.1.7 has the potential to increase the US pandemic trajectory in the coming months," the CDC said, explaining that it modeled the course of the virus's spread based on currently known factors.
"In this model, B.1.1.7 prevalence is initially low, yet because it is more transmissible than are current variants, it exhibits rapid growth in early 2021, becoming the predominant variant in March," the report suggested.
The CDC report called for more preparatory measures and vaccinations.
"Efforts to prepare the health care system for further surges in cases are warranted. Increased transmissibility also means that higher than anticipated vaccination coverage must be attained to achieve the same level of disease control to protect the public compared with less transmissible variants," the CDC warned.
In the meantime, the world passed another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 2 million people have now died from complications related to COVID-19 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University on Friday.
Nearly one-fifth of those deaths have been in the United States.
More than 388,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 complications since the pandemic began, and over 23 million have been infected.
Meanwhile, there have been nearly 100 million infections globally.
In September, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the global death toll could reach 2 million if countries did not work together to limit the spread of the virus.
“It’s certainly unimaginable, but it’s not impossible,” Mike Ryan, WHO executive director, said on September 25.
WHO's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned last month that the current pandemic will not be the last.
Speaking in a video message marking the first International Day of Epidemic Prep on December 27, Tedros also condemned the “dangerously short-sighted” cycle of throwing cash at outbreaks but doing nothing to prepare for the next one.
"For too long, the world has operated on a cycle of panic and neglect," he said.
"We throw money at an outbreak, and when it's over, we forget about it and do nothing to prevent the next one. This is dangerously short-sighted, and frankly difficult to understand."
"History tells us that this will not be the last pandemic, and epidemics are a fact of life," Tedros pointed out. "We must all learn the lessons the pandemic is teaching us."
The UN health agency's chief said that all countries should invest in preparedness capacities to prevent, detect and mitigate emergencies of all kinds, and called for stronger primary health care provision.