'Please get in touch': UK searches for mystery spreader of Brazil variant


© Reuters. Photo illustration of a letter detailing plans for children to return to school, in Ouston


By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain on Monday appealed for a mystery individual infected with a highly transmissible Brazilian variant of the novel coronavirus to come forward, more than two weeks after they tested positive but failed to give proper contact details.

Britain said six cases had been detected of the “P.1” variant identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus, against which current vaccines appear to be less effective. Two were in South Gloucestershire in England and three in Scotland.

But a sixth individual in England, one of more than a million people tested on Feb. 12-13, had yet to be identified because their test card was not filled in properly.

“If you’ve had a test on the 12th or 13th of February, (and) haven’t had your results back, please get in touch,” vaccination minister Nadhim Zahawi told Times Radio. “We are working with the postal system to try and locate them.”

The P.1 variant includes mutations similar to those found in a variant first detected in South Africa known as B.1.351, which has raised similar concerns.

Adam Finn, a member of the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, told the BBC: “The evidence we have suggests that certainly the South African variant and potentially this Brazilian variant, which is somewhat similar – the vaccines we have at the moment are less effective at reducing at least mild disease and possibly transmission.

“We are optimistic that the vaccines will continue to prevent severe disease, but the evidence for that is still fairly limited.”

One of the cases in the household in South Gloucestershire had flown from Sao Paulo in Brazil via Zurich to London, arriving on Feb. 10. Public health officials said they were following up with all passengers.

All three of the Scottish cases were identified as people who had flown from Brazil to Aberdeen via Paris and London who self-isolated for the required period of 10 days.

By Sunday, over 20 million people in Britain had been given a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine – just over 30% of the population, while around 800,000 had had a second dose.

Manufacturers are working on measures to adapt their vaccines to mutations of the virus.

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