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Confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants identified in UK

Public Health England

February 28
17:00 2021

Latest update

Cases of Variant of Concern first detected in Manaus identified in the UK

Up to 6 cases of theVariant of Concern first identified in Manaus, Brazil (P.1)have been detected in the UK. Public Health England (PHE) has identified 3 of these cases of the Variant of Concern in England.

Two of the cases in England are from one household in South Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil and there is a third, currently unlinked case.

The cases in South Gloucestershire were rapidly followed up by the PHE Health Protection Team cases and their contacts have been identified and retested. One case that had travelled to Brazil has been isolating at home with their household since returning to the UK.

PHE and NHS Test and Trace are following up with all passengers on Swiss Air flight LX318 travelling from Sao Paulo via Zurich and landing in London Heathrow on 10 February, to provide public health advice and test them and their households. Anyone who returned to the UK at that time should have gone home immediately from the airport and isolated for 10 days.

If you were a passenger on the flight and have not been contacted, please call 01174 503 174 to arrange a test for you and your household contacts.

Although the risk to the wider community is considered low, as a precaution, PHE, working in collaboration with South Gloucestershire Council and NHS Test and Trace, is taking swift and decisive action to deploy surge asymptomatic testing as well as increasing sequencing of positive samples from the area. Residents of South Gloucestershire should visit the councils website for more information on testing. The most important actions are identifying cases and their contacts and supporting these individuals to isolate effectively.

Further investigation is underway regarding the third case in England. The individual did not complete their test registration card so follow-up details are not available. We are therefore asking for anyone who undertook a test on 12 or 13 February and hasnt received their result or has an uncompleted test registration card, to call 119 in England or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland for assistance as soon as possible.

The P.1 variant has been designated of concern as it shares some important mutations with the variant first identified in South Africa (B.1.351), such as E484K and N501Y. It is possible that this variant may respond less well to current vaccines, but more work is needed to understand this.

Dr Susan Hopkins, PHE strategic response director for COVID-19 and NHS Test and Trace Medical Advisor, said:

We have identified these cases thanks to the UKs advanced sequencing capabilities which means we are finding more variants and mutations than many other countries and are therefore able to take action quickly.

The important thing to remember is that COVID-19, no matter what variant it is, spreads in the same way. That means the measures to stop it spreading do not change. Stay at home and if you do need to go out for essential reasons, cover your nose and mouth, wash your hands thoroughly and keep your distance.

We ask that individuals come forward for testing through the symptomatic and asymptomatic test sites across the countries in order to continue to drive down cases in the community.

Background

Three cases of the variant have also been identified in Scotland but these are not linked to these 3 cases in England.

Previous

Tuesday 16 February

Public Health England (PHE) has identified 38 cases of COVID-19 which genomic sequencing has shown to feature a specific set of mutations which are currently being referred to as lineage B.1.525. The set of mutations includes the E484K spike protein mutation, which is present on a number of other variants of concern and variants under investigation.

This variant has been designated a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) and will be referred to as VUI202102/03.

The variant has been detected in other countries, including Nigeria, Denmark and Canada.

Cases are geographically dispersed across England. Enhanced contact tracing and genomic sequencing is underway to monitor the situation as it develops.

Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at PHE, said:

PHE is monitoring data about emerging variants very closely and where necessary public health interventions are being undertaken, such as extra testing and enhanced contact tracing.

There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more severe illness or increased transmissibility.

The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to follow the public health advice: wash your hands, wear a face covering and keep your distance from others. While in lockdown, it is important that people stay at home, where possible.

Regular updates of confirmed variant cases will be provided on this page.

Friday 15 January

As of Thursday 14 January 2021, 35 genomically confirmed and 12 genomically probable cases of the SARS-CoV-2 variant which originated in South Africa (called VOC202012/02 in the UK, also named B1.351 and 501Y.V2 internationally) have been identified in the UK.

Two variants of interest have also been identified in Brazil. The first variant is variant under investigation (VUI) 202101/01 this variant has a small number of mutations. The spread and significance of this variant remains under investigation. In partnership with COG-UK, 8 genomically confirmed cases of this variant have now been identified in the UK. All necessary public health action is being taken to follow-up the cases.

The second variant has been designated a Variant of Concern by NERVTAG, now termed VOC202101/02, and this variant has more mutations. We have NOT detected this second Brazil originated strain in the UK this has been detected in Manaus and travellers arriving in Japan.

Laboratory work has begun on the VOC 202012/02 in the UK and is routinely undertaken on all variants under investigation or of concern once samples are available.

Dr Susan Hopkins, COVID Strategic Response Director at Public Health England, said:

We are continuingefforts to understand the effect of the variants on transmissibility, severe disease, mortality, antibody response and vaccine efficacy.

For now, our advice remains the same following detection of a Brazilian variant in the UK, even though this is not the variant detected in Manaus with more mutations: the best way to stop the spread of the virus is to wash your hands, wear a face covering and keep your distance from others. Whilst in lockdown, it is important that we also stay at home unless it is absolutely essential to go out.

Through COG-UK, the UK is a global leader in SARS-CoV-2 genomics, providing around 48% of the genomic data supplied to GISAID, the scientific initiative which allows global, real-time surveillance of the COVID-19 pandemic.

WGS is vital to the global response to the pandemic, allowing us to monitor and understand the evolution of new COVID-19 variants and respond with timely public health interventions.

In addition to the travel ban imposed on South Africa on 23 December 2020, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced new restrictions for everyone arriving into the country from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, Mauritius and Seychelles.

The restrictions follow new data on the steep rise in incidence of the B1.351 variant, which has vastly increased the risk of community transmission between these 9 southern African countries, as well as the Seychelles and Mauritius which have strong travel links with South Africa.

From 15 January 2021, the DfT has also imposed a subsequent travel ban to the UK from several South American countries and countries with strong travel links to Brazil. Passengers who have been in or transited through Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Cape Verde, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Panama, Portugal (including Madeira and the Azores), Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela in the last 10 days will no longer be granted access to the UK.

British and Irish Nationals (and or third country nationals with residence rights in the UK) who have travelled from or transited through these countries must self-isolate for 10 days, as must members of their household. Contact tracing and testing of close contacts of confirmed cases will be

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