New Covid variant detected in travellers entering UK via Antigua

11 March 2021, 15:04 | Updated: 22 March 2021, 21:40

Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport (file image)
Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport (file image). Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

A new coronavirus variant has been detected in travellers entering the UK via Antigua, Public Health England has confirmed, as four more cases of the Brazil strain were also identified.

The new variant has emerged after two people returned from Antigua back to the south east of England.

It was declared a Variant Under Investigation on March 4, with the variant containing two mutations linked to evading the vaccines.

No other cases have been found and teams have worked to speak to any close contacts.

Despite the travel history of these cases there is no scientific evidence to determine where this variant first emerged.

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Four new cases of the Manaus variant of coronavirus have also been identified in England, Public Health England said.

Three of the new cases have been found in South Gloucestershire and are said to be close or household contacts with the two cases previously discovered in the area.

The other case was found in Bradford, West Yorkshire, after the person tested positive late last month having travelled back from Brazil via Paris on February 14.

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Contact tracing teams have completed thorough investigations to identify and follow up any close contacts and no additional cases have been found to date.

Indeed, a PHE statement said: "Contact tracing teams have followed up close contacts of the individual and advised them to isolate and get a test."

The new cases bring the number of cases of the variant, named P1, detected in the UK to ten - seven in England and three in Scotland.

All of these cases have links to travel, or to a previously confirmed case, that has travelled to Brazil.

Many scientists say that mutations in the Covid-19 virus are inevitable. Nonetheless, variants have been a cause for some concern, such as those first identified in Kent, South Africa and Brazil. This is because they may have an impact on the effectiveness of some vaccines.

READ MORE: Denmark suspends AstraZeneca rollout after blood clot reports

Meanwhile, Denmark has suspended its rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine as a precaution after reports of some people getting blood clots after the jab.

The decision for a pause was made on Thursday after one death was reported along with a small number of blood clots - although Danish authorities have said no link to the vaccine has been confirmed.

Meanwhile, the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has stressed that no causal link has been found between the clots and the vaccine, and has advised people to continue getting their jabs.

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"Vaccine safety is of paramount importance and we continually monitor the safety of vaccines to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks," said Dr Phil Bryan, the MHRA vaccines safety lead.

"It has not been confirmed that the report of a blood clot, in Denmark, was caused by the Covid-19 vaccine (from) AstraZeneca."