HEALTH experts searching for the missing Brazilian variant Covid case have narrowed it down to one of 379 households in the South East, the Health Secretary has confirmed.
Matt Hancock today addressed MPs in the House of Commons and stated that there was “no information that suggests the variant had spread” to other areas in the UK.
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Residents living in five postcodes were earlier this week urged to get tested for Covid after six people were found to have been infected with the mutant bug in England and Scotland.
While five of the six people submitted details via Test and Trace, there was one passenger who didn’t fill out the correct details.
Speaking this afternoon, Mr Hancock thanked the passengers who had returned and quarantined.
He said: “We know five of the six quarantined at home and I want to put on record our gratitude to them for following the rules.”
Mr Hancock stated that the batch of test kit used by the missing case had been identified and that experts had therefore managed to narrow it down to one of 379 households in the South East.
He said a number of people had come forward after he appealed the nation this week for possible cases.
Mr Hancock added: “Current vaccines have not been studied against this variant. The variant has caused challenges in Brazil so we are doing all we can to stop the spread in the UK.”
Officials are also searching for passengers who were on the Swiss Air flight LX318 from Sao Paulo to Heathrow, via Zurich, which landed on February 10.
The Health Secretary previously defended the Government’s border arrangements following the detection of the cases of the worrying Manaus variant.
Mr Hancock said yesterday: “All the evidence is that the five cases that we know about followed those quarantine rules and that, I hope, is very reassuring to people.
“There is no evidence that the sixth case did not follow those quarantine rules – we need to obviously get in contact with the person in question.”
The test was taken on February 12 or 13 and “we haven’t seen any further knock-on transmissions in the data”.
Ministers have branded the new variant a “concern” because it may be more resistant to vaccines – though it’s not yet known for sure.
Public Health England this week confirmed six cases of the Manaus P1 variant.
It is thought to be more contagious and there is a chance it may not respond as well to the jab – although no vaccine data for it exists.
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Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College, said it looks likely the Brazilian variant is “breaking through” antibodies built up by previous infection.
Asked if it is impossible to keep the door shut to new strains coming in to the UK, he added: “It’s a really, really hard challenge. The border controls, test and trace and containment hasn’t been our biggest strength.
“We see these variants popping up variably all over the world, so we’re just as liable to suffer from a homegrown one as an imported one.
“So we just need to be really on the case all the time.”