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In search of the unknown patient: who brought the Brazilian variant in the UK?

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Aakash Molpariya
Aakash started in Nov 2018 as a writer at Revyuh.com. Since joining, as writer, he is mainly responsible for Software, Science, programming, system administration and the Technology ecosystem, but due to his versatility he is used for everything possible. He writes about topics ranging from AI to hardware to games, stands in front of and behind the camera, creates creative product images and much more. He is a trained IT systems engineer and has studied computer science. By the way, he is enthusiastic about his own small projects in game development, hardware-handicraft, digital art, gaming and music. Email: aakash (at) revyuh (dot) com

Despite strong restrictions on passengers, the authorities have failed to prevent the four most dangerous variants of covid-19 from being present in the United Kingdom

Despite strong restrictions on passengers, which have virtually shielded borders, the British authorities have failed to avoid what they feared most: the four “worrying variants” of the coronavirus are already in the UK. The Brazilian strain, which is highly contagious and linked to an increased risk of reinfection, was the only one that had been controlled, but six cases have already been detected. And the most alarming thing is that one of them is untraceable.

The infected person was tested between February 12 and 13 with the test sent home so as not to saturate the health centers. But that person did not complete the registration card that is mailed back, so the person cannot now be contacted. Authorities have publicly requested that any individual who underwent the PRC during these days immediately call 119. But, so far, they haven’t managed to find the ‘unknown patient’.

Above all, the Executive does not want to jeopardize the successful vaccination campaign, where more than 20 million people have already received the first dose. The goal is for the entire adult population to have received the first jab by the end of July.

Of the six cases of the new Brazilian variant, three have been identified in Scotland (these are Scottish residents who flew to Aberdeen from Brazil via Paris and London) and another three in England. The two identified in south Gloucestershire have been isolated at home since returning from Brazil, before the new passenger restrictions came in on February 15. All of his contacts have been identified and re-examined and officials are awaiting laboratory results to see if two other members of the same household who tested positive have the variant. In this sense, the hunt for the unknown patient has focused on the list of passengers on Swiss Air flight LX318 from São Paulo via Zurich that landed at London Heathrow airport on February 10.

Although it is true that there are thousands of variants of the coronavirus circulating around the world, experts are now focused on four, which present the E484K mutation, produced in the spike protein of the virus and which increases its great contagion capacity, raising doubts of the effectiveness of current vaccines. Specifically, these four ‘worrisome strains’ are the Kentish (known as the British variant), the new one detected in Bristol (England) in mid-February, the South African, and the Brazilian.

The United Kingdom is the country that sequences the most genomes of the virus in search of alterations that can modify its behavior. Analyze around 25,000 samples a week. That means that now about a quarter of positive cases are reviewed. But last month, infection rates were higher, so fewer than one in 10 cases were analyzed.

Precisely to shield the country against these new strains, the Government implemented new restrictions on February 15, which force a strict quarantine in hotels for passengers from a ‘red list’ of 33 countries considered at risk, including Brazil. There were rumors in the press about the possibility of including Spain due to its geographical proximity to Portugal, but finally, the authorities have not ruled on the matter.

Previously, passengers had to isolate themselves at home for 10 days upon the arrival. But now, those coming from the ‘red list’ have to pay out of their own pocket around 2,000 euros around $ 2400 for accommodation and travel to the hotel. The additional fee per adult or a child over 12 years old is 800 euros or $ 960 and for a minor between five and 12 years old, it is 375 euros or approx $ 450. Those who do not comply with the rules face fines of up to 12,000 euros(around $14,500) and those who lie about their travel itinerary can even be sentenced to 10 years in prison. In short, no one now dares to circumvent the system.

In order to travel, passengers are also required to have a negative PRC, carried out 72 hours before, and two more tests on arrival, on the second and eighth days of their quarantine period. The tests must also be paid for individually and amount to $ 300 or around 241 euros. Those who refuse to take the new tests face fines of $ 2700, approx 2,300 in euros.

The Labor opposition assures that the Executive has failed to impose a “comprehensive” border control system and that the measures were late. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson explains that the UK has moved “as fast as it can” and now has “one of the toughest border regimes in the world to prevent people entering this country from having the worrisome variants of the virus”.

Downing Street has published a roadmap to soften the third confinement imposed on January 6 in England. It is a four-phase plan that will begin on March 8 with the reopening of schools, allow the enjoyment of the terraces by mid-April and end, provided that the cases are remitting, on June 21, when all prohibitions are over. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have their own powers, but the de-escalation will be similar.

‘A priori’, therefore, it seems that the British will be able to enjoy their holidays this summer. In any case, Downing Street has not yet detailed when international travel will resume. It will not be until next April 12 when there is a concrete strategy. Although everything indicates that non-essential international movements will continue to be banned, at least, until May 17. As long as the vaccination campaign runs its course.

Scientists at the University of Oxford have committed to having a new vaccine update that will be effective for the new variants by autumn. At the moment, a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines that are being supplied in the country reduces the risk of hospital admission by more than 90% (with the British being slightly more effective), according to a new study carried out by those responsible for the public health service.

However, the Government is committed to investing 72 billion pounds (EUR 81 billion or approx 98 billion in dollars) in the National Public Health System (NHS) over the next two years, after an analysis has warned that the UK has one of the lowest numbers of per capita intensive care beds across Europe: 7.3 per 100.000 people, compared, for example, to 33.8 in Germany.

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