LONDON (Reuters) – Up to six cases of a highly communicable variant of coronavirus first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus have been detected in the United Kingdom for the first time, English health officials said on Sunday.
Three cases were found in England and another three in Scotland.
Two of the three cases found in England were from a home in the South Gloucestershire area that had a history of travel to Brazil. A third case, currently unlinked, has yet to be identified, Public Health England said.
The risk to the wider community from the Gloucestershire cases was deemed low, but as a precautionary measure, officials moved quickly to implement testing and increase the sequencing of coronavirus positive samples in the area, PHE said.
The Scottish cases were not related to those of England.
The P.1 variant detected in Manaus shares some mutations with a variant first identified in South Africa and may be less responsive to current vaccines, PHE said.
Susan Hopkins, PHE’s director of strategic response for COVID-19, said Britain’s advanced gene sequencing capabilities mean it is finding more variants and mutations than many other countries.
At the end of last year, Britain detected a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus that is believed to have originated near London and caused a sharp increase in cases in the country and beyond.
“The important thing to remember is that COVID-19, no matter what variant it is, spreads in the same way. That means that the measures to stop its spread do not change, ”said Hopkins.
The PHE and the system of test and trace officers were tracking all the passengers on Swiss Air flight LX318 from Sao Paulo to London via Zurich, which landed at London Heathrow on February 10, to test them and their homes. .
The three Scottish cases were identified in people who returned to the country via Paris and London and who self-isolated for the required period of 10 days.
“Due to possible concerns surrounding this variant, other passengers are being contacted on the flight used by the three people from London to Aberdeen,” the Scottish government said.
Written by William Schomberg; Editing by Jane Merriman and Frances Kerry