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Public Health England is searching for an individual thought to be infected with the highly transmissible Brazilian variant of coronavirus, after up to three cases were found in England and a further three in Scotland.
The P1 variant, also known as the B1128 variant, shares some of the same mutations as the highly transmissible South African variant, such as E484K and N501Y, and overall has more than 20 changes, deletions, mutations and insertions in its genome. It was first identified in Manaus, Brazil.
A report from Brazilian researchers said it was “potentially associated with an increase in transmissibility or propensity for reinfection of individuals”. It is also possible this variant may respond less well to current vaccines, but more work is needed to understand this.
Two of the English cases are from a single household in South Gloucestershire, a member of whom recently returned from Brazil. Their contacts have been identified and retested, but surge testing is being rolled out in the local area as a precaution.
PHE and NHS test and trace are also following up with all passengers who arrived on the same Swiss Air Lines flight, number LX318, which travelled from São Paulo via Zurich and landed at London Heathrow on 10 February.
However, there is also a third, currently unlinked individual at large whose identity is unknown because they did not complete the registration card that came with their Covid-19 testing kit.
“We are therefore asking for anyone who undertook a test on 12 or 13 February and hasn’t received their result or has an uncompleted test registration card, to call 119 in England or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland for assistance as soon as possible,” PHE said.
It is also urging anyone on the Swiss Air Lines flight who has not been contacted to call 01174 503 174 to arrange a test.
Separately, three people living in north-east Scotland have also tested positive for the P1 variant after returning from Brazil via Paris and London. They were identified while self-quarantining and have since completed their full 10-day isolation period. Other passengers on their flight, which landed in Aberdeen in early February, are being contacted as a precaution.
This is the first time the P1 variant has been detected in the UK, although another Brailian variant called P2 has previously been detected. Although it is currently being investigated, the early signs are that the P2 variant is not more transmissible.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the PHE strategic response director for Covid-19 and NHS test and trace medical adviser, said: “We have identified these cases thanks to the UK’s advanced sequencing capabilities which means we are finding more variants and mutations than many other countries and are therefore able to take action quickly.
“We ask that individuals come forward for testing through the symptomatic and asymptomatic test sites across the countries in order to continue to drive down cases in the community.”
The Scottish health secretary, Jeane Freeman, said: “This new variant demonstrates how serious Covid is and reinforces the need to minimise the spread of the virus. We would encourage everyone across the country to adhere to the necessary public health restrictions by staying at home except for essential purposes as this is the single best way of staying safe and stopping the spread of this virus. It is now also illegal for anyone to travel to or from Scotland unless it is for an essential reason.”
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said: “It is deeply concerning that the Brazil Covid variant has been found in this country.
“It is now vital that we do everything we can to contain it. But this is further proof that the delay in introducing a hotel quarantine was reckless and the continuing refusal to put in place a comprehensive system leaves us exposed to mutations coming from overseas.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Person believed to have Brazilian Covid variant being sought in England | World news