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ANOTHER Covid variant ‘from the Philippines’ is spotted in two people in England

PHE spots ANOTHER Covid variant ‘from the Philippines’ as officials detect two more cases of Brazilian strain

  • Filipino variant, named P.3, shares mutations with Kent and South African strains
  • Picked up in two people in England, one of whom had international travel links
  • Two more cases of Brazil variant been spotted in London and West Midlands

Another new coronavirus variant first spotted in the Philippines has been found in the UK, Public Health England revealed tonight.

The strain, which has been named P.3, has a number of concerning mutations that are also present on the South African, Brazilian and Kent variants.

It was picked up in two people in England, PHE said, one of whom had recently travelled to the Philippines.  

The other case is still under investigation and it’s not clear if the pair knew each other. All of their close contacts have been reached and told to isolate.

The P.3 variant contains the spike mutations E484K, found on the Brazilian and South African versions, and N501Y, also present on the Kent strain. Those alteration help make other variants more transmissible or help them to evade antibodies. 

Meanwhile, PHE said it had two more cases of the Brazilian P.1 variant – one in the West Midlands and one in Haringey in North London. Both patients had recently been to Brazil.

The case in the West Midlands was identified by routine testing at Birmingham Airport, where they have been quarantined. The London case was picked up through surge testing. The agency said even more testing will be done in Haringey to clamp down on the variant’s spread. 

The latest cases bring the total number of P.1 variant cases in the UK to 12 – nine in England and three in Scotland. All of the patients have either direct or indirect travel links to Brazil.

The discovery of the Filipino strain means the agency now has six variants ‘under investigation’.

French experts spot ‘Breton’ Covid variant which ‘may fully evade tests’ 

A Covid variant which may be able to fully evade current tests has been spotted in France, it emerged last night.

Eight cases of the ‘Breton variant’ were detected in a hospital in Lannion, a town in the northwest region of Brittany. 

The French health ministry revealed that despite being infected with the virus, the patients’ polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results were negative. They were only spotted through genomic sequencing of the samples.

It’s thought to be the first time any variant has slipped past the gold-standard PCR tests, which are critical for keeping track of the pandemic. 

While PCR cannot diagnose other variants, including the Brazil and South African versions, it still gives a Covid positive result. 

Scientists at the Institut Pasteur who discovered the Breton variant said it does not appear to be more transmissible or deadly than the original virus.

They revealed the new strain carries nine mutations on its spike protein, but also in ‘other viral regions’. They did not provide any further details.

It has four more which it describes as ‘variants of concern’. They are: the current dominant Kent strain (B.1.1.7); one imported from Brazil (P.1), the South African variant (B.1.351), and one version of the Kent strain that has evolved further that cropped up in Bristol. 

It came after a Covid variant which may be able to fully evade current tests was spotted in France last night. 

Eight cases of the ‘Breton variant’ were detected in a hospital in Lannion, a town in the northwest region of Brittany. 

The French health ministry revealed that despite being infected with the virus, the patients’ polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test results were negative. They were only spotted through genomic sequencing of the samples.

It’s thought to be the first time any variant has slipped past the gold-standard PCR tests, which are critical for keeping track of the pandemic. 

While PCR cannot diagnose other variants, including the Brazil and South African versions, it still gives a Covid positive result. 

Scientists at the Institut Pasteur who discovered the Breton variant said it does not appear to be more transmissible or deadly than the original virus.

They revealed the new strain carries nine mutations on its spike protein, but also in ‘other viral regions’. They did not provide any further details.

Despite new variants cropping up in the UK and around the world more often, top scientists have warned against becoming ‘obsessed’ with mutant viruses.

All the of the big vaccine-makers say they are confident their jabs will be highly effective against all emerging strains.

Oxford University researchers have said it is unlikely a single strain will make the vaccines significantly weaker in the next year.

Instead, they say there is more chance that a series of evolution over the space of many months or even years could eventually make the current crop of jabs less potent.

But vaccines can be modified in a matter of weeks and regulators in the UK, US and EU have passed laws which means new booster vaccines can be fast-tracked to approval. 

Despite new variants cropping up in the UK and around the world more often, top scientists have warned against becoming ‘obsessed’ with mutant viruses.

All the of the big vaccine-makers say they are confident their jabs will be highly effective against all emerging strains.

Oxford University researchers have said it is unlikely a single strain will make the vaccines significantly weaker in the next year.

Instead, they say there is more chance that a series of evolution over the space of many months or even years could eventually make the current crop of jabs less potent.

But vaccines can be modified in a matter of weeks and regulators in the UK, US and EU have passed laws which means new booster vaccines can be fast-tracked to approval.

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