Brazil Covid variant: where in the UK has the strain been identified – as Brazil records new death toll high

The Manaus strain has been identified in Scotland for the first time

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 12:11 pm
The Manaus variant has been identified in the UK, according to health officials (Getty Images)

A further case of the Brazilian strain of coronavirus was potentially identified in Scotland on March 9 – though Nicola Sturgeon stressed this was not linked to three earlier cases of the so-called P1 strain on the virus.

The First Minister was also clear that there was “no indication of onward community transmission of this variant”.

The potential discovery of a new case comes with the South American country’s hospitals on the verge of “collapse”.

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Six cases of the potentially highly infectious Brazil strain of Covid were identified in the UK for the first time on February 28.

The variant, first identified in the city of Manaus in the South American country, has been highlighted as a cause for concern as it shares characteristics with a variant first identified in South Africa, sparking concerns that the strain could be highly infectious and respond less well to vaccines.

Three of the cases were identified in Scotland with health secretary Jeane Freeman stating: "This new variant demonstrates how serious Covid is and reinforces the need to minimise the spread of the virus.”

Research into the variant is at an early stage but here’s everything we know about the strain so far.

What is the Brazil variant?

Experts detected the new variant circulating in December in Manaus, north Brazil.

It is not yet known if the mutation causes more severe Covid-19, but evidence suggests it may be more transmissible.The variant was detected in Brazil and in travellers from Brazil to Japan, and contains a unique constellation of lineage defining mutations.

The P. 1 variant is associated with a surge of cases in Manaus late last year, which led to a severe second wave of Covid-19.

Scientists were concerned because this raised the possibility it is able more easily re-infect patients due to the mutations it carries. But the evidence for this is currently limited.

Like the South African variant, the Brazilian one carries a mutation in the spike protein called E484K, raising concerns that vaccines may not be as effective against it.

The country's leading health institute warned on March 10 that health systems in the country’s largest cities were on the verge of collapse.

On March 9 the country recorded 1,972 Covid deaths, a record high, and experts are warning that the variant could be a danger beyond the country’s borders.

Fiocruz epidemiologist Jesem Orellana told AFP news "Brazil is a threat to humanity”.

Where has the Brazil variant been identified in the UK?

The Scottish Government said that three individuals identified in Scotland were from the north east of the country.

The individuals had travelled to Aberdeen from Brazil, via Paris and London.

The three individuals went straight into quarantine on arrival in Aberdeen.

Work is under way to trace those who were on the same flight as those infected.

Three more cases of the variant were identified in England.

Two were confirmed in South Gloucestershire but the third English case has not been located and could be anywhere in the nation, with PHE saying the person did not complete their test registration card so their contact details are absent.

Will vaccines work against the Brazil variant?

Scientists are conducting analysis to establish if it has a higher mortality rate or if it affects the vaccines or treatments.

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 CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) said the variant "may affect the ability of antibodies generated through a previous natural infection or through vaccination to recognize and neutralize the virus".