‘No evidence’ COVID variant of concern has been transmitted in the UK, Matt Hancock says

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read

Watch: Mystery sixth case of Brazilian variant identified, says Matt Hancock

There is no sign the Brazil coronavirus variant of concern has been transmitted further in the UK, Matt Hancock has said after the mystery person infected with it was found.

Health secretary Hancock said at a Downing Street press conference on Friday that there was “no evidence of onward transmission”.

Officials had been searching for the mystery person – one of six cases identified in England and Scotland – all week, after they had taken a test in February but left no contact details.

The person was finally reached in Croydon, south London, on Friday, while their contacts were also traced.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: Health Secretary, Matt Hancock speaks at the government coronavirus briefing at Downing Street on March 5, 2021 in London, England. The mystery person who was missing after testing positive for the Brazilian variant of Covid-19 has been found after a five-day search. Six people were diagnosed with the P1 strain that was first discovered in Manaus. Five were self-isolating at home after flying from Brazil to the UK but the sixth could not be identified due to incomplete test forms. Health officials launched a search this week and narrowed the field to just 300 houses in Gloucestershire. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Hancock said there was 'no evidence of onward transmission'. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Hancock said: “The best evidence is that this person stayed at home and there is no evidence of onward transmission.

“But as a precaution we are putting more testing in in Croydon, where they live, to minimise the possibility of spread.”

The Brazil variant, also known as the P1 variant, was associated with a surge of cases in Manaus late last year. It is one of four variants of concern being tracked by scientists in the UK.

A study this week suggested that between 25% and 61% of people in Manaus who had previously had COVID-19 were susceptible to reinfection with the concerning P1 variant.

The variant carries a mutation in the spike protein called E484K, raising concerns that vaccines may not be as effective against it.

Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins, appearing alongside Hancock at the press conference, said the mystery person had been “interviewed extensively” after being found.

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She explained: “On Wednesday at 3pm, an individual phoned the 119 service. They were able to give the missing barcode number that they had held securely for the whole time.

“This individual has been interviewed extensively and lives within a household that had recently returned from Brazil and all had quarantined at home.

“Further precautionary testing will occur in the neighbourhood and we have already started testing all of the samples from the neighbourhood through whole genome sequencing to ensure there is no further distribution of cases in the community.”

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