A worker who distributes vaccination cards as members of the public will be vaccinated at a drive-through vaccine center in Hyde near Manchester, UK on Friday January 8, 2021.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images
UK health officials are keen to track down one in six people infected with a contagious variant of the coronavirus that was originally identified in Brazil.
Up to six cases of the new strain – named P.1 and classified as a “variant of concern” by global health experts – have been identified in the UK, three in Scotland and three in England.
What worries officials, however, is that one of the three cases found in England has not been traced. The government issued a statement on Sunday noting that two of the cases in England came from a South Gloucestershire household and had traveled to Brazil in the past.
The cases in South Gloucestershire, southeast England, were quickly followed up by a team from Public Health England and their contacts were identified and retested, the government said. All passengers on the same flight – Swiss Air flight LX318 from Sao Paulo via Zurich to London Heathrow on February 10 – were also followed by officials.
As a precautionary measure, health officials are stepping up testing of asymptomatic cases in the South Gloucestershire area and increasing sequencing of positive samples from the area.
The mysterious case
However, further research is ongoing into a separate third case of the variant identified in England. The health authorities are calling on anyone who did not receive the result of a Covid test carried out on February 12 or 13 to report.
“The person did not fill out their test registration card, so no follow-up details are available,” the government stated.
“We therefore ask anyone who took a test on February 12th or 13th and has not yet received the result or has an incomplete test registration card to call 119 in England or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland for assistance as soon as possible receive.”
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock will hold a meeting later Monday to inform UK lawmakers of all parties of the variant, the BBC reported.
Why are officials concerned?
Health officials are concerned because the variant first identified in Brazil is believed to be a more contagious strain of the coronavirus and could cause more severe infections. There are also concerns that it could make coronavirus vaccines less effective. However, this is not confirmed and research is being carried out to see if it is.
While scientists are doing this research, vaccine manufacturers are developing booster vaccinations for target variants.
The UK is already grappling with the spread of a far more contagious variant, which was responsible for an increase in cases over the winter. The strain has since become dominant in the country and has spread worldwide.
The latest weekly report from the World Health Organization said 101 countries have now reported cases of the variant first identified in the UK.
Regarding the strain found in Brazil, it said 29 countries have reported cases so far. This P.1 variant was first identified in four travelers from Brazil to Japan in January during a routine screening at Haneda Airport outside Tokyo.
The strain has been classified as “Concerning” because it has some crucial mutations with the variant first identified in South Africa. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the P.1 variant has a total of 17 unique mutations and was first detected in the US at the end of January.
When the first cases of this variant were discovered in the UK, people traveling from abroad had to self-isolate at home for 10 days.
However, that changed on February 15th and now travelers to the UK must be quarantined in hotels for 10 days at their own expense. In mid-January, Great Britain banned travelers from various South American countries from entering the country unless they had a right of residence.
The move was an attempt to prevent the spread of infectious variants and potentially undermine the previously successful introduction of the coronavirus vaccine in the country. The UK reached another milestone on Sunday after vaccinating 20 million people with a first dose of a Covid vaccine.
Dr. Susan Hopkins, PHE’s Strategic Response Director for Covid-19 and NHS Test and Trace Medical Advisor, said the new cases in the UK were identified thanks to the country’s advanced sequencing capabilities, “which means we are finding more variants and mutations than many other countries.” and are therefore able to act quickly. “
“The most important thing is that whatever the variant, Covid-19 spreads the same way. That means the measures taken to contain the spread won’t change,” she said, advocating good personal hygiene and leaving only the house for essential reasons.
The three cases identified in Scotland were found in people returning to Aberdeen from Brazil via Paris and London. These cases are not related to the three cases in England.
As required at the time, the individuals entered self-isolation upon their return to Scotland and subsequently tested positive for coronavirus. The people then self-isolate for the required 10-day period, the Scottish Government said in a statement.
Due to possible concerns about this variant, other passengers on the flight from London to Aberdeen were contacted, the Scottish government found.