UK detects six cases of Brazilian coronavirus ‘variant of concern’
LONDON — A coronavirus “variant of concern” first identified in Brazil has been detected in the United Kingdom and authorities are trying to find one of the people infected, health authorities said Sunday.
Three cases of the variant traced back to Manaus in Brazil have been flagged in England, with three separately identified in Scotland.
The variant — known as P.1 — is deemed of concern because it shares mutations with the variant first identified in South Africa, which studies suggest can spread more easily and may be less susceptible to vaccines. “It is possible that this variant may respond less well to current vaccines, but more work is needed to understand this,” Public Health England (PHE) said in a statement.
While two of the English cases are linked to a household in South Gloucestershire “with a history of travel to Brazil,” the third is an “unlinked case” who health authorities have yet to trace.
The agency said more investigation was needed in that case because the individual who tested positive “did not complete their test registration card,” required to help identify who a sample belongs to.
They are appealing for contact from anyone in the U.K. who was tested on February 12 or 13 and has yet to receive a result, or who did not complete their card when undergoing a test. The U.K. government is also contacting passengers on a Swiss Air flight from São Paulo via Zurich that landed in London Heathrow on February 10.
Susan Hopkins, PHE’s strategic response director, said the cases had been identified because of the U.K.’s “advanced sequencing capabilities” and that authorities had moved to “take action quickly.”
“The identification of this new variant is a concern but we are taking every possible precaution,” said Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.