Enhanced contact tracing after Brazilian strain detected

Three Scottish residents tested positive for the Manaus variant after flying into Aberdeen from Brazil, via Paris and London.

Enhanced contact tracing is under way after the Brazilian variant of Covid-19 was detected in Scotland.

Three Scottish residents tested positive for coronavirus after flying into Aberdeen from Brazil, via Paris and London.

The tests, which were completed in early February, were passed to the UK’s sequencing programme and were identified as being the Manaus variant on Saturday.

The World Health Organisation has been informed of the cases, which have been designated “of concern” as the strain shares key mutations with the variant detected in South Africa.

More work is needed, but there are concerns that the existing vaccines may be less effective against the Manaus variant.

The trio, who arrived in Scotland before the new rules on hotel quarantine came into force, tested positive while self-isolating together in accommodation provided by their employer.

They are now out of quarantine.

Other passengers who were on the same BA1312 flight from London Heathrow to Aberdeen on Friday, January 29 are now been contacted.

Jillian Evans, head of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, said health protection specialists are also following up contacts of the trio’s contacts as an added precaution to ensure that any further cases are found quickly.

She told Good Morning Scotland on Monday: “And that’s not standard procedure, that’s going one stage further.

“But of course, if they have been in quarantine for ten days and managed isolation for that period of time, you would think that they wouldn’t have many contacts to follow up.

“But nonetheless, that’s an added precaution that’s been taken by health protection specialists – not something we would normally do.”

Ms Evans added that the situation was being monitored “very, very closely” and said she wanted to provide reassurance that the new variant had not spread into the community.

Three other cases of the Manaus strain have also been detected in England, however they are not linked to the Scottish cases.

A hunt is currently under way to locate one of the English patients as the person failed to complete their test registration card so their contact details were absent, according to Public Health England.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 briefing later on Monday, health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I want to stress that there is currently no reason to believe that the P1 variant of the virus is in circulation in Scotland, however I hope this summary reassures you that we are doing everything we can and everything necessary to check whether this variant of the virus could have been transmitted within Scotland and to identify and break any possible chains of transmission.”

She added: “We know that current vaccines are effective against the strains of the virus which have already been established in the UK.

“However, more work is required to determine that this remains the case for emerging strains of the virus, such as the one we are highlighting today from Brazil.”