By Dorrothy Moyo | A COVID variant first seen in Brazil has been found in the United Kingdom with one positive test unaccounted for A COVID-19 variant that was first seen in Manaus, Brazil, has been found in up to six UK cases. One of those cases has not been accounted for, with vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi urging that person to get in touch with the NHS.
The variant, first seen in Brazil in December, has led to criticism of the UK’s border controls, with hotel quarantine from certain countries not coming in until February. The British govt’s responsible department, Public Health England, has since issued the below announcement:
Cases of Variant of Concern first detected in Manaus identified in the UK
Up to 6 cases of the Variant of Concern first identified in Manaus, Brazil (P.1) have been detected in the UK. Public Health England (PHE) has identified 3 of these cases of the Variant of Concern in England.
Two of the cases in England are from one household in South Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil and there is a third, currently unlinked case.
The cases in South Gloucestershire were rapidly followed up by the PHE Health Protection Team – cases and their contacts have been identified and retested. One case that had travelled to Brazil has been isolating at home with their household since returning to the UK.
PHE and NHS Test and Trace are following up with all passengers on Swiss Air flight LX318 travelling from Sao Paulo via Zurich and landing in London Heathrow on 10 February, to provide public health advice and test them and their households. Anyone who returned to the UK at that time should have gone home immediately from the airport and isolated for 10 days.
If you were a passenger on the flight and have not been contacted, please call 01174 503 174 to arrange a test for you and your household contacts.
Although the risk to the wider community is considered low, as a precaution, PHE, working in collaboration with South Gloucestershire Council and NHS Test and Trace, is taking swift and decisive action to deploy surge asymptomatic testing as well as increasing sequencing of positive samples from the area. Residents of South Gloucestershire should visit the council’s website for more information on testing. The most important actions are identifying cases and their contacts and supporting these individuals to isolate effectively.
Further investigation is underway regarding the third case in England. The individual did not complete their test registration card so follow-up details are not available. 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.
The P.1 variant has been designated ‘of concern’ as it shares some important mutations with the variant first identified in South Africa (B.1.351), such as E484K and N501Y. It is possible that this variant may respond less well to current vaccines, but more work is needed to understand this.
Dr Susan Hopkins, PHE strategic response director for COVID-19 and NHS Test and Trace Medical Advisor, 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.
The important thing to remember is that COVID-19, no matter what variant it is, spreads in the same way. That means the measures to stop it spreading do not change. Stay at home and if you do need to go out for essential reasons, cover your nose and mouth, wash your hands thoroughly and keep your distance.
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.
Three cases of the variant have also been identified in Scotland but these are not linked to these 3 cases in England.