United Kingdom detects six cases of Brazilian Covid variant

Clay Curtis
March 3, 2021

According to a study uploaded to GitHub on February 27 that has not been peer reviewed, an emerging variant of SARS-CoV-2 first spotted in November in Manaus, Brazil and known as P.1 is around twice as transmissible as the variant that gripped the country last spring.

He said: "We've identified the batch of home test kits in question, our search has narrowed from the whole country down to 379 households in the south-east of England and we're contacting each one".

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On Tuesday, Mr Hancock signalled that officials were closing in on the mystery patient following a Government awareness campaign calling on anybody who had taken a Covid test in mid-February but had not received the results to come forward.

Surge testing will now be carried out in the Bradley Stoke, Patchway and Little Stoke areas of South Gloucestershire to capture any potential spread in cases.

The remaining unlocated case is not believed to be linked to the others because the virus was found to have slight genetic differences.

Sharon Peacock, executive director and chairwoman of the Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium, and professor of public health and microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said P1 had been found in 25 countries to date.

Officials are contacting the other passengers on their flight from London to Aberdeen.

Jeane Freeman
Jeane Freeman gave the latest Covid-19 figures

Though all variants arose independently, the Brazilian variant presents three key mutations in its spike proteins N501Y, E484K and K417N, alongside other changes, which it shares in part with the South Africa B.1.351 variant and the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the UK.

More work is needed but there are concerns that the existing vaccines may be less effective against the Manaus strain. New research provides mounting evidence that the Brazilian variant - detected in at least five states - is indeed more infectious, can cause reinfection and may evade vaccines.

However, in the United Kingdom where the Kent variant is now dominant over the original, experts have cautioned that the study can not be used to predict what may happen in Britain, and say it does not suggest that vaccines will not work against the variant.

Dr Hopkins said: "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. 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", he pointed out.

She was echoed by Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman who said the P1 variant "demonstrates how serious coronavirus is and reinforces the need to minimise the spread of the virus".

The health Secretary Matt Hancock will address the nation from Downing Street at 5pm today.

By Sunday, over 20 million people in Britain had been given a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine - just over 30% of the population - while around 800,000 had had a second dose.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was a "huge national achievement", after a rise of 407,503 first jabs in a day. Nearly 186,000 people received their first dose of the Covid vaccine yesterday.

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