Health Secretary Matt Hancock urges unidentified Brazil Covid case to come forward

1 March 2021, 18:33 | Updated: 1 March 2021, 19:51

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Matt Hancock has urged one of the first people in the UK to contract the new Brazilian P1 coronavirus variant to come forward.

Public Health England (PHE) said on Sunday six cases of the strain first detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus have been confirmed in Britain, three in England and three in Scotland.

However one of the English cases has not been located and could be anywhere in the country.

At Monday’s Downing Street press conference, the Health Secretary said: “One of the six completed a test but did not successfully complete contact details and we are therefore asking anyone who took a test on the 12th or 13th of February but hasn’t received the result back to please get in touch by calling 119 in England, Wales or Northern Ireland or in Scotland 0300 303 2173.”

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The variant is concerning because it may spread more rapidly and respond less well to existing vaccines.

Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, said it was being tracked "very closely".

"It shares some important mutations with the variants first identified in South Africa," she told a Downing Street news briefing.

"These and other mutations are associated with reduced impact of antibodies against the virus in laboratory experiments.

"The current vaccines have not yet been studied against this variant and we will need to await further clinical and trial data to understand the vaccine effectiveness against this variant."

The two other cases identified in England were found in South Gloucestershire, with Dr Hopkins saying surge testing had started on Monday in the area as a “highly precautionary measure”.

The Gloucestershire cluster is said to have originated from one individual who travelled back from Brazil and arrived in London on February 10 - five days before the Government's quarantine hotel policy came into force.

The traveller isolated at home with the rest of their household under the rules in place at the time. One member exhibited Covid symptoms before getting a test.

Dr Hopkins said more than 90% of passengers on Swiss Air flight LX318, which travelled from Sao Paulo, through Zurich, landing in London Heathrow on February 10, had been reached amid a bid to contact all those on board.

She asked all the other passengers on the flight to call 0117 450 3174 to arrange a test.

The Scottish Government said the three residents who tested positive for the strain returned to north-east Scotland from Brazil, via Paris and London.

The tests were completed in early February and were passed to the UK's sequencing programme.

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