Three cases of Brazilian Covid-19 variant identified in Scotland

Three cases of a new variant of Covid-19 first identified in Brazil have been confirmed in Scotland.

The Covid-19 variant was first identified in Manaus, Brazil. Picture: Shutterstock)

The Scottish Government said that three individuals who had returned to north east Scotland from the South American country, via Paris and London, had tested positive for the variant.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said the identification of the new variant – first traced in the north-western Brazilian city of Manaus – was a cause for “concern,” but stressed the government was taking "every possible precaution.”

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This variant in question has been designated ‘of concern’ as it shares some important mutations with a variant first identified in South Africa.

There is some data to suggest that this variant may be more likely to cause Covid-19 infections in people who have been vaccinated or who had been infected with one of the earlier strains of coronavirus.

The so-called P1 variant carries multiple mutations affecting the spike protein, raising questions about whether people who have developed antibodies to the previous strains - either via vaccination or recovering from Covid-19 - will be susceptible to it.

The three individuals, all Scottish residents, tested positive after entering self-isolation. Health protection teams are currently contacted other passengers on a London to Aberdeen flight. It is unclear how many people were on board the flight.

The tests were completed in early February and passed to the UK’s advanced sequencing capabilities programme which detected the new variant.

The three positive Scottish cases are not connected to three cases of the variant identified in England.

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The Scottish Government said health protection authorities, including local clinicians, have assessed each case and their contacts, and were arranging protective measures for a “small number of potentially exposed individuals.” It added that people who could have been infected are also being isolated and tested.

The Brazil variant first emerged last year and has a mutation known as E484K which may help the virus evade parts of the immune system called antibodies.

It is possible that this variant may respond less well to current vaccines, but at this time there is a high degree of uncertainty. Authorities are awaiting clinical and trial data to better understand its impact.

Last month saw the first known instance of a recovered Covid-19 patient being reinfected with the P1 variant in Brazil. According to the World Health Organisation, 28 countries have detected the variant.

Ms Freeman said: “The identification of this new variant is a concern but we are taking every possible precaution.

"We have identified these cases thanks to our use of advanced sequencing capabilities which means we are finding more variants and mutations than many other countries and are therefore able to take action quickly.

"This new variant demonstrates how serious Covid is and reinforces the need to minimise the spread of the virus.”

Ms Freeman reiterated the need for people to adhere to public health restrictions by staying at home except for essential purposes.

Two of the three cases of the Manaus variant identified in England are from a single household in South Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil. The whereabouts of a third individual who tested positive are unknown. Public Health England said the person did not complete their test registration card.

The WHO has been informed of all six cases,

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