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Public Health England is facing a needle-in-a-haystack hunt for a person who tested positive for the “concerning” Brazilian Covid variant but did not leave their name and address with their test.
There are a few clues to go on. Public Health England thinks it knows when the test in question was taken and so is asking people who were tested on 12 or 13 February but have not received any test result to get in touch.
It believes the positive result is likely to have resulted from a home postal test or a test collected from a local authority, and the infected person did not fill out their details properly.
Because the test was sent by post or courier, records can be checked. Dr Susan Hopkins, a strategic response director at PHE, said the agency was looking at where the test may have been sent from and to, working with postal and courier services. If there are records of the test being delivered to the person, that could provide an address. She said the public appeal to find the person was a “belt-and-braces approach”.
The hunt is urgent given that the P1 variant, first detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus, is believed to transmit more easily and may reduce vaccine effectiveness. Two other people who tested positive for the strain in England are self-isolating, as are three more in Scotland.
The Scottish cases flew to Aberdeen from Brazil via Paris and London, and all tested positive while self-isolating on returning home. Other passengers who were on the same flight to Aberdeen are now being traced. The Scottish government said samples from any passenger on the London to Aberdeen flight who subsequently tested positive or was symptomatic were being urgently sequenced to determine whether any had acquired the new variant.
The other two cases in England are from the same household in the South Gloucestershire council area after one person returned from Brazil on 10 February 10 just days before the government’s hotel quarantine rule came into force in England.
Before their flight from Sao Paulo to London via Zurich, they had taken a pre-departure test and filled in a passenger locator form allowing them to be quickly traced. The Scottish and English cases are not linked, PHE and the Scottish government said.
PHE is working with NHS test and trace to follow up with all passengers on Swiss Air flight LX318 travelling from Sao Paulo via Zurich and landing at London Heathrow on 10 February. It wants to test them all and urges anyone on that flight not yet contacted to call 01174 503 174.
There are inevitably concerns that other people may already be infected. Two other people in the same South Gloucestershire household have also tested positive but are not currently included in the UK case total of six, while tests on their type of coronavirus continue.
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said on Monday that the travellers “have been isolating correctly”, but local health officials are carrying out surge testing of the population in areas of Bradley Stoke, Patchway and Little Stoke to capture any potential spread.
The arrival of the virus variant comes at a difficult time for those charged with limiting its spread.
“As we start to release national restrictions with the schools going back on 8 March, that is where the risk starts to increase, and that’s why we really are clamping down on a number of measures to prevent the spread of these variants,” said Hopkins.
“Manaus in particular reported that a number of individuals were re-infected with this variant, and therefore that suggests that having had prior immunity from primary infection wasn’t enough to reduce infection and transmission. And that may also impact on the vaccine.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Why UK’s hunt for Brazil variant Covid cases is so urgent | Coronavirus