Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today he was “very concerned” about a new variant of Covid believed to have originated in Brazil – here is everything you need to know about the strain.
The latest mutation was discovered in Japan after four people from the Amazon state traveled to Tokyo earlier this month.
Much unknown is known about the variant, including whether vaccines are effective against it, and scientists are not yet sure if it is more transmissible.
At this stage, people are not believed to get any sick.
Mr Johnson said there were “many questions” about the strain being studied by Japanese scientists.
It is not known if it has already found its way to the UK.
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The Japanese National Institute for Infectious Diseases (NIID) currently states that there is “no evidence” that the variant is more contagious than previous versions of Covid.
However, the newly identified variant is believed to share traits with the British tribe
A man in his forties had difficulty breathing while a woman in her thirties had headaches and sore throats.
The other two who tested positive for the variant were children, one of whom had a fever.
A health ministry official said over the weekend, “To further analyze the variant, we need to isolate it first.
“It’s hard to say right now when we’ll be able to release the details.”
He warned it could be weeks or even months before more was known about the new variant.
Japan announced detection of the new variant on Sunday and reported it to the World Health Organization after a number of people infected with the strain arrived from Brazil.
It is the third major variety after those believed to be native to the UK and South Africa.
Cambridge University microbiology professor Ravi Gupta said the Brazilian variant has three key mutations that “largely mirror” some of those in the hyperinfectious South African variant, “hence the concern”.
“Vaccines are likely still effective as a control measure when coverage rates are high and transmission is limited as much as possible,” he added.
Speaking to the Commons Liaison Committee today, the Prime Minister said: “We are concerned about the new Brazilian variant.
“There were still many questions about the variant, including whether it would be resistant to the vaccines.”
Labor’s Yvette Cooper said she was “very reassured” to learn of additional measures, in addition to requiring people arriving in England on Friday to get a negative test up to 72 hours before departure.
Mr Johnson replied, “Well, it is us and we are taking additional measures to ensure that people from Brazil are controlled and actually stop people from Brazil.”
The Labor MP said: “Are you, this is a new announcement?”
“No, sorry, I said we looked at whether or not the Brazilian variant is immune,” replied Mr Johnson.
When asked if this means a travel ban for Brazil, he said: “We are taking steps to ensure that we don’t see this new variant imported from Brazil.”
Prof. de Oliveria, who leads South Africa’s efforts to understand the new strain, said: “We know that B.1.1.248 has a mutation that is shared with the variant in Great Britain and South Africa, and that is the mutation at position N501Y.
“This is one of the mutations … associated with rapid transmission.”