By Ian Collier and Alix Culbertson::
A sixth person in the UK who tested positive for a Brazilian coronavirus “variant of concern” has been found in Croydon, south London.
The COVID-19 variant, first seen in the city of Manaus, is thought to spread more rapidly than the original virus and to be more capable of evading existing vaccines.
In total, six cases of the P1 coronavirus variant have been confirmed – three in England and three in Scotland.
All of the cases are linked to travel from Brazil to the UK.
During Friday’s Downing Street briefing, health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the mystery person had been tracked down.
“Using the latest technology and with the dogged determination of our Testing and Tracing scheme, we have successfully identified the person in question,” he said.
Public Health England (PHE) adviser Dr Susan Hopkins revealed how the person was tracked down:
Two of the six cases were found in South Gloucestershire, with surge testing employed in the area to try and see if there are more people who have the virus.
The three people in Scotland who tested positive for the variant, oil workers returning home, were in the Grampian region in the north of the country.
Research has suggested that the Brazil variant may spread more easily than other examples of the coronavirus.
Mutations to the virus’s spike proteins mean that antibodies developed in the human body to fight other variants may not be as effective.
In Manaus, Brazil, almost 70% of the population had immunity from the first wave of COVID-19.
But at the start of this year, the variant spread through the Amazonas city, with hospitals reportedly being overwhelmed.
There were fears vaccines would not work against the variant but a University of Oxford study found the vaccine it developed with AstraZeneca is effective against it, a source told Reuters.