World, Europe

UK hunts for unidentified case of Brazil virus strain

Brazilian variant of novel coronavirus thought to be more transmissible, more resistant to current COVID-19 vaccines

Karim El-Bar   | 01.03.2021
UK hunts for unidentified case of Brazil virus strain

LONDON

British health authorities are hunting for an unidentified person in the UK who is infected with the Brazil variant of COVID-19 in the hopes of stopping its spread, local media reported on Monday.

The Public Health England (PHE) announced Sunday that they had identified six cases of the variant in the UK, half in England and the other half in Scotland, while only one case remains unidentified.

The variant was originally identified in Manaus, a city in Brazil. It is thought to be a more transmissible strain and could potentially be more resistant to current COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News: “There is one case where the individual didn't fill in their test card details so we can contact them.

“They've probably got a home kit or a test kit from their local authority. What we're asking today is, anyone who had a test on 12 or 13 February to contact NHS 119 so that we make sure we identify that individual.”

The PHE’s Strategic Response Director Dr. Susan Hopkins told the BBC: “We are looking at where the test may have been sent from and to, working with the postal services and the courier services.”

British officials are combing through passengers who were on Swiss Air flight LX318 from Sao Paulo to Heathrow, via Zurich, which landed on Feb. 10, which was before the new hotel quarantine policy came into force.

Surge testing is also taking place across the UK to pin down any new infections.

Dr. Hopkins added: “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.”

“I think the importance here is that, while we’re in national restrictions, while we have very transmissible variants that are circulating, then we hope that there are not any other variants that will be able to take over,” she said.

“However, as we start to release national restrictions with the schools going back on March 8, 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.”

She added: “We haven’t detected it in any individual who hasn’t had a history of travel or had contact with travel yet, so that is good news. But we are prepared to search it out in the communities, if it is there.”

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