The troublesome Brazilian variant of coronavirus will inevitably end up in Britain, scientists have warned amid fears it could make vaccines less e
The troublesome Brazilian variant of coronavirus will inevitably end up in Britain, scientists have warned amid fears it could make vaccines less effective.
Cases of the mutant strain — which shares a mutation with the South African variant — have already been spotted in France, Italy, the Netherlands and the Faroe Islands.
Health ministries in Germany and Spain claim to have also discovered cases of the dangerous strain.
Experts now say it is only a ‘matter of time’ before the variant — dubbed P1 — lands on Britain’s shores because ministers ‘can’t rely’ on border controls to lock it out.
The Brazilian variant carries the E484K mutation which scientists believe allows it to partially dodge vaccine-triggered immunity. Several studies have shown the current crop of vaccines are less effective against this mutation.
None of the European countries where the mutant variant has been detected are on the Government’s ‘red list’, which forces arrivals to isolate in hotels for 10 days to ensure they aren’t inadvertently carrying the virus into Britain.
Experts have accused the system – which will not be put in place for another week – of being too little too late and say the horse has already bolted.
It comes after Boris Johnson today refused to rule out extending the lockdown if the South African variant continues to spread, amid fears Oxford University’s jab may not stop people falling ill with the mutant strain.
The above map shows which countries have reported cases of the concerning Brazilian variant of coronavirus. It has now been found in six European countries
WHERE IS THE BRAZILIAN VARIANT?
1, January 12
3, January 18
4, January 22
2, January 28
2, January 22
1, February 5
Rest of the world (confirmed)
74, December 4
4, January 2
3, January 9
1, January 10
1, January 28
Rest of the world (reported)
2, January 30
1, February 3
1, February 7
The Netherlands declared two cases of the variant in travellers returning from Brazil on January 28.
France had announced four by January 22, and Italy said it had identified three cases in travellers returning from Brazil by January 17.
The Danish-controlled Faroe Islands were the first European area to reveal they had a case of the variant on January 12, which was also identified in a traveller arriving from Brazil.
Spain claimed it had detected a care on February 5, in a 44-year-old man returning from Brazil.
And the German state of Hesse, in the west of the country, claimed to have identified two cases by January 22.
But these cases are yet to be rubber-stamped by international experts.
There is mounting concern over the Brazilian strain because of its E484K mutation.
It has also been found to carry the N501Y mutation, which scientists say made the Kent variant far more infectious and allowed it to rapidly spread across Britain.
Another key mutation in the variant, named K417T, has the potential to ‘possibly escape some antibodies’, according to COG-UK.
Professor Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia told MailOnline it was ‘only a matter of time’ before the Brazilian variant landed on Britain’s shores.
He warned that although the Government’s border controls ‘have a value’, ministers ‘can’t rely on them’.
He also said the South African and Brazilian variants already in the UK are of greater concern because they both carry N501Y, which could help them ‘out-compete’ the Brazilian version should it arrive in the UK.
The South African strain also has the worrying E484K mutation, which has also been found to crop up in a handful of cases of the Kent variant.
‘If the Brazilian variant came into this country given that we’ve got the South African variant circulating already I don’t think it would increase the threat to us,’ he said.
‘It’s not the thing I would be worried about – it’s the new English and South African variants that have increased infectiousness and resistance to the vaccine.
‘Although border controls may reduce re-introductions they are not actually going to do anything [to stop these more concerning variants arriving].’
Almost 150 cases of the South African variant have already been spotted in the UK, health minister Edward Argar said today. But the Kent virus is the dominant strain.
Britain’s hotel quarantine scheme came under fresh criticism on Sunday when it emerged 35 countries where mutant coronavirus strains have been found are not on the list
It comes after a study today warned the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine may be only 10 per cent effective against the South African strain of the virus.
Professor Mike Tildesley, an infectious disease expert from Warwick University and member of the SAGE sub-group SPI-M, claimed the finding could have ‘significant implications’ on Britain’s lockdown-easing plans.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme: ‘It means that even with high levels of vaccination there will be a lot of people that could potentially get infected and could potentially pass it on and it may mean that more restrictions might be needed for longer if we can’t get on top of this.’
Professor Mike Tildesley (left) warned the South African strain may be spreading in UK
Despite the concerning new finding, UK ministers have urged Brits to keep faith in the vaccine, saying there is ‘no evidence’ it will not block severe disease and death. Top experts — including Oxford researchers and the UK’s top vaccine panel the JCVI — believe it will still protect millions from getting severely ill.
Surge testing is being carried out door-to-door in some parts of the UK after the South African variant was identified in these areas.
Results of the tests are expected later this week, which could reveal the full-extent of the outbreak of the variant.
Swab testing can only tell whether someone is infected with the virus, with expensive genome sequencing then needed to determine which strain they have.
The UK checks roughly 10 per cent of all the positive swabs for their strain, meaning the current estimate of case numbers may be well below the actual toll.
It comes as Britain’s hotel quarantine scheme came under criticism on Sunday when it emerged 35 countries where mutant coronavirus strains have been found are not on the list.
Earlier this week, the Government confirmed that all passengers from 33 ‘red list’ countries would have to quarantine for ten days in a hotel from February 15.
But an analysis carried out by the World Health Organization has found dozens of countries where the highly-infectious South African and Brazilian variants have been found are not on the list.
They include Austria, Denmark, France, Greece, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada and the United States.
Labour Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds reacted with fury at the news, branding the Government’s quarantine measures ‘dangerously inadequate’.
Scientists also said the oversight was ‘not good enough’, adding that the virus ‘spreads like wildfire’.