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Public Health England is working with the postal service to try to locate an unidentified person with the new Brazilian variant of coronavirus, as the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, defended the government’s quarantine policy.
The person is understood to have taken a home test, or a test kit provided to them by their local authority, between 12 and 13 February, but did not fill in their contact details.
Zahawi made a “belt and braces” appeal on Monday to anyone who took such a test, and had not yet received a result, to come forward either by contacting 119 in England, or the appropriate authority elsewhere in the UK.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Public Health England are working with the postal service to try and work out any more data points. Public Health England are pretty good at locating these variants of concern, as we have being doing with the South African variant.”
He added: “We are working with several data points to try and locate them, not least, of course, to try and highlight anyone who has had a test on 12 [February] to come forward if they haven’t had a result.”
Asked if UK’s hotel quarantine policy had been introduced too late to prevent the importation of new variants such as the South African and Brazilian ones, Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Respectfully, I would say to you that the border controls that we have are pretty stringent. Even countries that had hotel quarantine, like Australia, still had to deal with the variants, challenging them in the same way they challenge us.”
Two cases of the P1 Brazil variant have been identified in a couple in South Gloucestershire after one of the couple travelled from São Paulo, Brazil, via Zurich to London before hotel quarantine was implemented.
“They did take a pre-departure test and filled in their passenger locator form, which is why we are able to deal with them so effectively and work with South Gloucestershire council. There is minimal reason to believe that there may be further spread because they have been isolating correctly. But we will be doing asymptomatic testing in South Gloucestershire,” Zahawi told Sky News.
The UK’s strength in genome sequencing, and the number of tests being carried out – 800,000 PCR tests a day and millions of lateral flow tests ahead of schools reopening – would mean new cases could be identified very quickly, he said.
“We would pick up community transmission of this variant very rapidly, because we are able to genome-sequence very quickly. We are ahead of any other country in the world,” he told Today.
But Yvette Cooper, chair of parliament’s home affairs select committee, has said the discovery that up to three cases of the highly transmissible Brazil variant have been identified in the country “show the problems with some of the delays we’ve had from the government in bringing stronger measures in, because these cases seem to have arrived about a month after the Brazil variant was first identified and we were raising with the government the need to bring in stronger measures and stronger action”.
Zahawi also said March would be a “very big month” for vaccinations. “We have already been, for now over 10 days, reserving second doses,” he told BBC Breakfast. The number of people who had received their second doses was at 800,000, he said, “and in March you will see that number increase even more”.
The NHS had all the protocols in place to deliver the second dose, Zahawi said, with people receiving the same vaccine as their first dose. “We’re probably going to be [at] twice the rate over the next 10 weeks as we have done over the past 10 or 11 weeks.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Health and postal services seeking person with Brazil Covid variant, says Zahawi | Coronavirus