Mystery Brit with Brazil Covid variant found after huge hunt across England

A MYSTERY Brit who had the Brazil variant of Covid has finally been found, Matt Hancock confirmed tonight.

Public Health England started a frantic search for someone who had come into the UK with the mutation in February – but didn't register their form correctly and couldn't be traced.

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Incredibly, the mystery person came forward on Wednesday and rang the 119 covid hotline to confirm their barcode number.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference tonight he said patient X had been found and that surge testing was now being deployed in Croydon, South London.

Mr Hancock said he was "delighted" at the news, telling the nation: "With the dog-eared determination of our testing and tracing scheme. We've successfully identified the person in question.

"The best evidence is that this person in question stayed at home. And there's no sign that there's been any onward transmission.

"But as a precaution, we're putting more testing in in Croydon where they live, to minimise the risk of spread."

Susan Hopkins from Public Health England revealed how the team narrowed it down from thousands of possible people – before the person in question rang in to the NHS.

She added: "This individual has been interviewed extensively, and lives within a household, that had recently returned from Brazil, until all had quarantined at home."

A nationwide search was underway for the mystery person infected after six cases were confirmed last weekend.

They didn't put down the right information on their forms after flying into the UK, sparking a frantic search for them.

Earlier this week Matt Hancock said the search had been narrowed down to just over 300 households in the Gloucestershire area – and they were going door to door to find them.

The news came as it was reported that the Oxford Covid vaccine DOES work against mutant Brazil variant.

Preliminary data from a University of Oxford study reportedly shows that the jab doesn't need to be modified to protect against the strain – in a huge sigh of relief for Britain's health teams.

A source told Reuters today that the findings show the vaccine is effective against the P1 variant, which originated in the Brazilian city of Manaus.

The source, who requested anonymity as the results have not yet been made public, did not provide the exact efficacy of the vaccine against the variant.

They said the full results of the study are expected to be released soon – possibly later this month.

Early results indicated the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the South African variant, which is similar to P1.

Representatives for AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Brazil is currently confronting a brutal and long-lasting second wave of the coronavirus, hitting a daily record of 1,910 deaths on Wednesday.



Earlier this week he made a desperate plea for the mystery traveller who was infected with the Brazilian strain to come forward.

Mr Hancock and Susan Hopkins from PHE joined forces to ask anyone who had a test on February 12 or 13 to come forward to check if they were affected.

He said: "We're 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 2713.

"We are doing additional search testing in parts of South Gloucestershire as a highly precautionary measure, and we urge people in that country to come forward for testing."

What is the P1 Brazilian variant?

THE BRAZILIAN variant (P.1) carries three key mutations that affect the spike protein.

The spike protein is the part of the virus, SARS-Cov-2, that attaches to human cells and allows the virus to infect the body.

As a result, it is the part of the virus that the Covid vaccines are designed to target.

That's why scientists believe while the jabs should still work, they could be less effective against the Brazilian and South African strains.

Experts first detected the P.1 variant in Manaus, north Brazil, in December.

It is not yet known if the mutation causes more severe Covid-19, but evidence suggests it may be more transmissible.

Porton Down scientists are conducting more analysis to confirm evidence that indicates the strain does not cause any higher mortality rate or that it affects the vaccines or treatments.

It was detected in Brazil and in travellers from Brazil to Japan, and contains a unique constellation of lineage defining mutations.

Like the South African variant, the Brazilian one carries a mutation in the spike protein called E484K, which is not present in the original UK strain, or the widely circulating Kent strain.

The E484K mutation is present in the South African and Bristol strains.

The E484K mutation is thought to help the virus bypass the immune protection provided by prior infection or vaccination through antibodies.

Scientists analysing the Brazilian variant say the mutations it shares with the South African variant seem to be associated with a rapid increase in cases in locations where previous attack rates are thought to be very high.

They say it is therefore essential to rapidly investigate whether there is an increased rate of re-infection in previously exposed individuals.

 

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