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No evidence Brazil Covid variant has spread in Scotland, Jeane Freeman says

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THERE is no evidence the mutated coronavirus strain first found in the Brazillian city of Manaus has been transmitted by the three Scots infected with the variant, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has said.

A total of six cases of the P1 variant were identified in the UK last month – three in Scotland and three in England.

Since then, approximately 300 contacts or contacts of contacts liked to the three Scottish cases have been reached, told to self-isolate and offered a Covid-19 test, Freeman has revealed.

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Freeman has now announced that there has been no community transmission linked to the variant strain of coronavirus identified since the first cases were discovered on February 27.

She also confirmed that attempts to track down all passengers on the Heathrow to Aberdeen flight taken by the three Scots who tested positive for the mutated virus have ended, despite a failure to locate 21 of the 90 people on the plane.

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Although the search for the remaining passengers has been called off, anyone who was on flight BA1312 on January 29 who has not been contacted are still being asked to call the national contact tracing centre on 0800 030 8012.

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“There is no evidence of any community transmission of the P1 variant so far, and I am grateful to health protection teams, local clinicians and contact tracers for their efforts to contact the remaining passengers,” Freeman said.

“We have used all available options and done everything possible to contact all passengers, including referring to flight manifests and telephone information from the Community Health Index to make contact.

“Some passengers only have international telephone numbers so it is possible they are no longer in Scotland.”

Links to a Scottish school were also discovered during the tracing of secondary contacts, although Freeman said the risk to pupils, teachers and parents was “very low”.

She said: “A school was identified when tracing contacts of contacts as part of this enhanced contact tracing work.

“While we are not confirming which school due to the risk of identification of pupils, staff and their families, we can confirm that the risk to them is very low.

“This is not standard practice and was only carried out for these cases as an additional precaution.”

The P1 variant was associated with a surge of cases in Manaus late last year and is among a total of four variants of concern being tracked by scientists in the UK.

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A study this week suggested that between 25% and 61% of people in Manaus who had previously had Covid were susceptible to reinfection with the variant.

The variant carries a mutation in the spike protein called E484K, raising concerns that vaccines may not be as effective against it.

Freeman added: “The Covid vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission, and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow.

“These three strands – following expert advice and guidance to suppress the virus, using our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and rolling out vaccination as fast as supplies allow – are the three critical actions that will see us move, step by step, to protect the public, save lives and a brighter year ahead.”

It comes as Scotland recorded 12 deaths from coronavirus and 555 positive tests in the past 24 hours.

It brings the death toll – under the measure of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – to 7421.

READ MORE: Another 12 Covid deaths recorded in Scotland as cases rise by 555

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The daily test positivity rate is 3%, down from 3.1% yesterday.

Of the new cases, 166 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 91 in Lanarkshire and 72 in Lothian.

There are 639 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 27 in 24 hours, and 63 are in intensive care, down one.

A total of 1,743,869 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of Saturday morning and 114,081 have received their second dose.

Scotland had 3760 positive cases between February 24 and March 2, which was 68.8 cases per 100,000 population and a test positivity rate of 3.4%.

These numbers are lower than last week, in which Scotland reported 5342 positive cases, 104.1 cases per 100,000 population, and a test positivity rate of 4.7%.

READ MORE: This week’s top 500 Covid hotspot neighbourhoods in Scotland revealed

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