Who was the mystery Brazil Covid variant traveller?
6th March 2021

THE frantic search for a mystery Brazil Covid variant traveller has ended after a week-long hunt.

Matt Hancock confirmed the missing "Manaus patient" was found using "the latest technology".

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Who is the mystery Brazil Covid variant traveller?

The mystery sixth case of the Manaus variant of coronavirus was confirmed as having been tracked down and identified in Croydon, south London.

The person's name hasn't been revealed, but the Health Secretary told a press conference on Friday, March 5, that after a week of 'hard work' they had been tracked down.

He added: "We’ve now successfully identified the sixth case of the variant of concern first identified in Manaus in Brazil."

Incredibly, the mystery person came forward on Wednesday and rang the 119 Covid test and trace hotline to confirm their barcode number.

A nationwide search was launched for the mystery infected person after six Brazilian variant cases were confirmed in February.

Public Health England started a frantic search for someone who had come into the UK with the mutation – but didn't register their form correctly and couldn't be traced.

Ministers have branded the new Brazilian variant a "concern" because it may be more resistant to jabs.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said a massive hunt was underway as the missing person needed to be found "as soon as possible" so measures could be taken to squash any outbreak.

Mr Zahawi told Sky News: "In terms of its profile this P1 variant is much closer to the South African variant which we’ve been dealing with now for several weeks by surge testing, genome sequencing, and isolation.

"This is a variant of concern. It’s very similar in terms of its mutations to the South African variant so it is concerning."

What was done to locate the missing person?

Mr Hancock said on March 5: "Using the latest technology, and the dogged determination of our testing and tracing scheme, we’ve successfully identified the person in question.

"The best evidence is that this person in question stayed at home and that there’s no sign that there’s been any onward transmission."

"But as a precaution, we’re putting more testing in Croydon, where they live, to minimise the risk of spread.

"This positive outcome was only possible because of the huge genome sequencing capacity that we now have in this country and our test and trace team, so we could identify these cases, track them down and contact them."

It's understood the mystery UK case was probably tested on February 12 or 13, possibly via a home postal kit.

So the Royal Mail helped identify where the coronavirus testing kit was sent from.

Also, there has been plenty of publicity about the missing infected person – with headlines about the mystery traveller hitting news sites in the UK and across the globe.

Mr Hancock had previously said the search had been narrowed down to just over 300 households in the Gloucestershire area – and they were going door to door to find the mystery patient.

While a 40-strong team then narrowed the vast search from thousands to just 27 possibilities, the patient called on Wednesday.

Dr Susan Hopkins, of Public Health England, told reporters: "This individual has been interviewed extensively, and lives within a household that had recently returned from Brazil [and] all had quarantined at home."

What about the other cases?

After six cases of the Brazil variant were found in the UK – people living in five areas were initially advised to get a coronavirus swab at surge testing sites.

This has now been expanded to include more testing in Croydon, after the missing Manaus patient was found.

Three cases of the variant of concern first identified in Manaus, Brazil – known as the P.1 strain – have been identified by Public Health England (PHE).

Two are from one household in South Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil. They originated with someone who arrived from Sao Paolo before hotel quarantine came into force on February 15.

A third infection – of the mystery missing person – is understood to be an unlinked case in England.

The other three infections were identified in north-east Scotland.

Mr Hancock said: "Our goal is to contain this transmission to just these six people. We will obviously be looking out for that very, very carefully."

Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, said: “This is further proof that the delay in introducing a hotel quarantine was reckless and the continuing refusal to put in place a comprehensive system leaves us exposed to mutations coming from overseas."

What do we know about the P1 variant?

A coronavirus variant circulating in Brazil is likely able to reinfect people who survived infections with earlier versions of the coronavirus, new data suggest.

The variant that emerged in Brazil, called P1, carries a mutation that is already known to make a variant prevalent in South Africa harder to treat with antibodies and harder to prevent with available vaccines

"This variant has 17 unique mutations, including three in the receptor binding domain of the spike protein. This variant was detected in the US at the end of January 2021," says the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in America.

Researchers say an aggressive surge killing thousands of people in Manausis largely due to the new variant of the virus discovered in the capital and largest city of the Brazilian state of Amazonas.

P1 has quickly become the dominant variant, leading scientists to believe it is more contagious.

Reuters reported on March 5, 2021, that new data suggest that in many recovered patients, immunity to earlier versions of the coronavirus will not provide immunity to P1.

Tests on Covid survivors' plasma "had 6-fold less neutralising capacity" against the P1 variant than against earlier virus versions, researchers revealed.

Experts estimated that among every 100 survivors of Covid from earlier virus versions, 25-to-60 could become reinfected if exposed to the P1 variant because their antibodies could not protect them.

Genome sequencing indicates that 91 per cent of new Covid cases in January in Amazonas state involved the new variant, said Felipe Naveca, a local virologist.

Prof Christophe Fraser, from Oxford's medical school, who worked on the UK's Test and Trace app, warned that the Brazil variant could affect the vaccine rollout.

He told Sky News the strain "can re-infect people who have been infected naturally."

Prof Fraser added: "In Manaus, Brazil… that population had an incredibly high infection rate in the first wave, and yet was re-infected.

"What we don't know is the degree of protection the vaccines provide against this strain… we have quite a lot of data that suggests we should be a little bit concerned on the possibility that it could spread.

"We think, probably, that [the jabs] would probably reduce the rate of hospitalisation or death, but there's enough to be concerned."

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, admits there could be more people infected with the Brazilian Covid strain going undetected.

That's because only a small percentage of positive tests are having their genomes read.

"The hope being that as case numbers continue to go down and our capacity for sequencing continues to go up we could be capturing a larger fraction of all the infections," he told BBC Radio 4.

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