The Speaker
Thursday, 18 July 2024 – 17:23

What is the new Coronavirus variant of concern?

Up to 6 cases of a Variant of Concern first identified in Manaus, Brazil have been detected in the UK.

The Government has said NHS Test and Trace is taking ‘swift and decisive action’ to identify any other cases of the virus variant in the UK. Here’s a look at what we know about the new variant so far and what risk it could pose to public health…


What is the new variant?

The new Coronavirus variant, known as the P.1 variant, shares some of the mutations with the variant first identified in South Africa. As such, it is believed that the variant may respond less well to current vaccines, but there is not enough evidence to support this at the moment.


Where did the new variant come from?

The P.1 variant was first identified in Manaus, Brazil.

Two cases of the variant identified in England are from one household in South Gloucestershire, which has a history of travel to Brazil. A third, unlinked case has also been identified, though the whereabouts of the individual with the variant of the virus is unknown.

Three cases of the variant have also been identified in Scotland, though these are not believed to be related to the cases in England.


What is being done about the variants?

Over recent months, the UK has strengthened its response to tackling new variants of the Coronavirus. There is not enough known yet to say whether the P1 variant will impact mortality, case rates or be less receptive to vaccines, but action is being taken nonetheless as a precaution.

Surge asymptomatic testing is being deployed in the South Gloucestershire area to try and identify any other cases of the variant, while there is also to be increased sequencing of positive Coronavirus samples from the area. Significant efforts are going into tracing the unidentifed individual who was infected with the virus variant.

In addition, all passengers on Swiss Air flight LX318 which travelled from Sao Paulo via Zurich, landing at London Heathrow on 10 February are being followed up by Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace so that the passengers and their households can be tested.

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