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The ministers are to ban flights from Brazil and the surrounding countries


No10 is expected to finally ban flights from Brazil today, days after scientists sounded the alarm about a new Covid super strain.

Boris Johnson and the Covid-O Committee Ministers will consider suspending all travel from across South America to tackle the variant. It would reflect the tightened restrictions put in place on South Africa.

The Prime Minister admitted yesterday that officials were "concerned" about the variant, claiming the government was "taking steps" to ensure it does not spread to the UK. No cases have yet been discovered in the UK.

Experts and politicians have feared that the mutations in Kent and South Africa – which are very similar to the South African tribe – could prevent vaccines.

However, top scientists studying the constantly mutating SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 insist that the jolts currently being introduced are "likely still effective."

The Prime Minister announced that ministers were looking for ways to stop a variant of the variant found in Brazil – but dodged questions about whether Britain would introduce a travel ban

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps announced last night that it would be postponed until Monday to give people "time to prepare".

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps announced last night that it would be postponed until Monday to give people "time to prepare".

In a round of interviews this morning, Home Secretary Victoria Atkins suggested that the government try to reconcile “economic” factors with health protection

In a round of interviews this morning, Home Secretary Victoria Atkins suggested that the government try to reconcile “economic” factors with health protection

Pictured: A gravedigger works in the Parque Taruma cemetery during the coronavirus outbreak in Manaus, Brazil, in December

Pictured: A gravedigger works in the Parque Taruma cemetery during the coronavirus outbreak in Manaus, Brazil, in December

The Brazilian variant could represent a massive setback for attempts to get the UK back to normal, although it is currently unknown whether the tribe has reached the UK.

Amid a dispute over the government's response to the recent strain, the Prime Minister was yesterday accused by MPs of failing to tighten borders fast enough.

MPs also questioned why, ten months into the pandemic, new rules are being introduced requiring all travelers to take negative tests prior to entering the UK. Other countries have had similar rules for months.

When asked why the air corridor between Brazil and parts of South America to the UK was not yet closed, Ms. Atkins said: “Of course, people flying into the UK from South America or elsewhere must have 10 days of quarantine when they land in the UK. It is mandatory.

& # 39; In terms of travel policy decision, it takes a little time.

“We need to make sure we have a little time to let this bed in as we make these very, very important decisions that have a huge impact on people's private lives, but also on businesses.

"It was clear to the Prime Minister that action would be taken. We have acted decisively in the past with both the Danish and the South African variants, so I don't want to speculate any further at this point."

The requirement that all international passengers coming to the UK have a negative Covid-19 test should come into effect tomorrow.

Passengers – including homecoming Brits – must take a test up to 72 hours prior to travel. Border guards do spot checks and anyone who breaks the rules is fined £ 500.

But after 11 p.m. last night, Mr Shapps tweeted to explain the action was being delayed. "In order to give international arrivals time to prepare for passengers, a negative COVID-19 test must be demonstrated prior to departure for England starting January 18 at 4 a.m."

To add to the confusion, Mr Shapps added a calendar emoji showing the 17th.

Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the situation was "utter chaos".

"The government has been lacking a comprehensive airport testing policy with this pandemic and now it is in complete chaos," he said.

“Making declarations in the middle of the night poses ever greater challenges for travelers and the industry because their suggestions cannot be implemented.

& # 39; This chronic failure also puts us at risk again from stresses like those that occurred in South Africa and Brazil. As always, the ministers are too slow to act and this is a serious threat to the people. & # 39;

And Scottish Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the negative test requirement north of the border is already in place – even if it's due tomorrow.

In an interview on BBC Breakfast, he was asked what the Scottish position was like following news that the rules requiring travelers coming to England to test negative for coronavirus have been delayed.

He said: "The position in Scotland is that these restrictions exist and we want people to follow these restrictions to make sure we minimize the risk."

When asked, “So you need to take a test before you go to Scotland?” He replied “Yes” and agreed that the restrictions now apply.

It is understood that ministers today will consider banning flights and visitors entirely for all of South America in order to tackle the Brazilian variant. Pictured: Guarulhos, Sao Paulo

It is understood that ministers today will consider banning flights and visitors entirely for all of South America in order to tackle the Brazilian variant. Pictured: Guarulhos, Sao Paulo

All three mutant versions of the coronavirus found in the past few weeks - those from Kent, South Africa and Brazil - had an alteration in the spike protein of the virus called N501Y, which scientists say is better able to attach to the body and spread

All three mutant versions of the coronavirus found in the past few weeks – those from Kent, South Africa and Brazil – had an alteration in the spike protein of the virus called N501Y, which scientists say is better able to attach to the body and spread

Home Affairs Committee Chair Yvette Cooper angered Mr Johnson yesterday for not acting fast enough.

At the liaison committee hearing, she wanted to know why the UK borders were not immediately closed to travelers from Brazil after warnings about the new variety.

She asked him: "Why don't you take precautionary measures immediately?"

Ms. Cooper also criticized the quarantine system as "so much weaker" than measures in dozens of other countries that include rigorous border testing.

She said it meant that comers were allowed to board public transport to go where they would self-isolate after landing, with few checks to see if people were in quarantine.

Ms. Cooper added, "You give the impression every time that you are postponing all difficult and uncomfortable decisions until the last minute and with so many lives at stake Prime Minister, is this the guidance we really need?"

Mr Johnson claimed that "large numbers of checks" are being done to see if people are self-isolating.

The Prime Minister said: & # 39; We are concerned about the new Brazilian variant.

“We have already taken strict measures to protect this country from new infections from abroad. We are taking steps to do this in relation to the Brazilian variant. & # 39;

He added: "There are still many questions about this variant, for example we don't know any more than we know whether the South African variant is vaccine resistant."

Sir Patrick Vallance, the government's chief scientific adviser, told ITV's Peston Show that there was no evidence that any of the variants resulted in a more severe illness.

It is not yet known if the Brazilian strain is found in the UK. Brazil had one of the world's highest death tolls from Covid – 205,000.

The SAGE subgroup NERVTAG discussed the issue on Tuesday.

Brazil has already banned flights from the UK in the wake of the pandemic, so the new move would be a reciprocal one.

In 2019 there were around 290,000 visits to the UK from people from Brazil. However, according to Skyscanner, there are currently no direct flights from Brazil to the UK.

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi told the Commons that a new sting could be made in 30 to 40 days if a variant of the virus is found to be less responsive to the ones available.

The Department of Transportation released a fine print of the rules that require all passengers entering the UK not to show a negative test until late at night – just before they are supposed to board.

However, they will not be enforced until Monday, as a "grace period" has been set following a backlash from the travel industry.

Before the delay was announced, Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, Chair of the Airport Operators Association said, “It is terrible.

“We have to support travelers who are faced with the problem of having to come home.

"The industry wants to be the safest way to get home, but they need this guide and the details in a timely manner."

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE BRAZIL VARIANT?

Surname: B.1.1.248 or P.1

Date: Discovered in Tokyo, Japan by four travelers arriving from Manaus, Brazil on January 2nd.

Is it in the uk? Public health officials and scientists randomly survey around 1 in 10 coronavirus cases in the UK and have not yet reported any B.1.1.248 cases, but this does not rule this out entirely.

Why should we care? The variant has the same spike protein mutation as the highly transmissible versions known as N501Y found in Kent and South Africa, which enables the spike to bind better to receptors in the body.

It has a third, less well-studied mutation called K417T, and the effects of that are still being researched.

What are the mutations doing?

The N501Y Mutation allows the spike protein to bind better to receptors in people's bodies, making the virus more contagious.

Exactly how much more contagious it is remains to be seen, but scientists estimate that the similar-looking variant is 56 percent more transmissible in the UK than its predecessor.

Even if the virus doesn't appear to be more dangerous, its ability to spread faster and cause more infections inevitably translates into a higher death rate.

Another key mutation in the variant is called E484K, is also on the spike protein and is available in the South African variant.

E484K may be linked to the ability to evade parts of the immune system called antibodies, researchers from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro said in a scientific article published online.

However, there are several immune cells and substances that are involved in destroying the coronavirus when it enters the body, so it may not make a difference in the way people become infected or recover.

Will our vaccines still protect us?

There is no reason to believe that Covid vaccines that have already been developed do not protect against the variant.

The most important and important change in this version of the virus is the N501Y mutation.

Pfizer, the company that made the first vaccine approved for public use in the UK, specifically tested its sting for viruses carrying this mutation in a laboratory after the variants emerged in the UK and South Africa.

They found that the vaccine worked just as well as other variants and could ignore the change.

And since the South African variant carries another of the major mutations of the Brazilian strain (E484K) and the Pfizer shock also worked against it, it's likely that the new mutation won't affect the vaccines.

The immunity developed by different types of vaccines is broadly similar. If one of them can work against it, so should the others.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a microbiologist at the University of Cambridge, said: "Vaccines are likely still effective as a control measure when coverage rates are high and transmission is limited as much as possible."

Paul Charles, executive director of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “There is not enough clarity about the nature of the tests allowed that consumers are panicking about whether they will be allowed into the country without a fine for having the wrong documentation . Guidelines for the hoof never work. & # 39;

It is estimated that up to 100,000 Britons are abroad. Many left in mid-December before the third lockdown.

Experts asked last night why the UK had not run tests at the border, even though dozens of countries around the world had been doing so for months.

Professor Lawrence Young, a molecular oncologist at the University of Warwick, said, “You could say it's too little, too late. We should have done this ages ago.

“If you look at where successful return locks have taken place, the people there have closed their borders. The horse ran away.

“It's hard to understand why we haven't been stricter when it comes to international travel, and why we're doing testing now and not paying so much attention to it last March. Testing has to be a really important part of it. & # 39;

A spokesman for the Department of Transport told MailOnline: “As the Prime Minister said, we are aware of this new variant and are considering urgent measures to reduce the spread to the UK.

"Arrivals from Brazil have to self-isolate for 10 days or face a fine of £ 500 or more."

It is normal for viruses to mutate, and early signs don't suggest any of the new variants of the coronavirus is more deadly than others, but in some places it is evolving to allow it to spread faster.

If the virus spreads faster it inevitably leads to more cases, which in turn leads to a higher number of deaths, even if the strain itself is not more dangerous.

The variant that originated in Kent, which is now estimated to be 56 percent more transmissible than its predecessor, has quickly become the dominant form of the virus in England, resulting in the country's longest and toughest lockdown since March 2020.

There is no evidence that vaccines against this variant are less effective. Pfizer, maker of the first approved prick, tested it on similar variants in the UK and South Africa and said it still works just as well.

The mutated variant of the coronavirus was discovered last week in Japan in four people who had arrived on a flight from Brazil. It was first discovered in Brazil in October.

Scientists said it had similarities to the highly contagious varieties found in the UK and South Africa.

It has a genetic mutation called N501Y that changes the shape of the spike proteins on the outside of the virus.

This mutation allows the virus to bind better to the receptors in the body that it is targeting, which essentially means that it successfully overcomes the body's natural defenses more often.

Therefore, people exposed to the virus are more likely to become infected than if the other person were infected with an older, less contagious strain.

A World Health Organization report on the variant last week said: & # 39; The variant was identified when full genome sequencing was carried out on samples from 4 travelers from Brazil that were tested at the airport …

& # 39; We are working with Japanese and Brazilian authorities through our regional offices to assess the importance of these findings.

& # 39; We are also working with our Viral Evolution working group to evaluate the importance of this variant. If these and other variants identified in the past few months lead to changes in communicability, clinical presentation, or severity, or affect countermeasures, including diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. & # 39;

It added: 'The same comprehensive approach to controlling Covid-19 works against these variants.

"At the individual level, protective measures work for all identified variants: physical distancing, wearing a mask, good ventilation of the rooms, avoidance of crowds, cleaning hands and coughing in a bent elbow or tissue."

It is too early in the discovery of the variant for politicians or scientists to be sure how the virus's changes will affect outbreaks.

Laboratory tests suggest that the N501Y mutation could improve transmittability – the British variant with the same change is estimated to be about 56 percent more infectious, but other changes to the virus can affect this as well.

Another key mutation in the variant called E484K, which is also on the spike protein, could be linked to the ability to evade parts of the immune system called antibodies, researchers at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro said in a published scientific Articles online.

However, there are several immune cells and substances that are involved in destroying the coronavirus when it enters the body, so it may not make a difference in the way people become infected or recover.

There is no reason to believe that Covid vaccines that have already been developed do not protect against the variant.

The most important and important change to this version of the virus is the N501Y mutation, which has been linked to faster transmission.

Pfizer, the company that made the first vaccine approved for public use in the UK, specifically tested its sting for viruses carrying this mutation in a laboratory after the variants emerged in the UK and South Africa.

They found that the vaccine worked just as well as other variants and could ignore the change.

And since the South African variant carries another of the major mutations of the Brazilian strain (E484K) and the Pfizer shock also worked against it, it's likely that the new mutation won't affect the vaccines.

This new variant (shown in light green) was first discovered in October in Brazil and accounted for a growing proportion of infections there in November

This new variant (shown in light green) was first discovered in October in Brazil and accounted for a growing proportion of infections there in November

The immunity developed by different types of vaccines is broadly similar. If one of them can work against it, so should the others.

Professor Ravi Gupta, a microbiologist at the University of Cambridge, said: “The Brazilian variant has three key mutations in the spike receptor binding domain (RBD), which largely mirror some of the mutations we are concerned about in the South African variant Concern.

& # 39; SARS-CoV-2-RBD is one of the primary targets for our immune defenses, and so is the region vaccines target, and changes in that region are therefore of concern.

"Vaccines are likely still effective as a control measure when coverage rates are high and transmission is limited as much as possible."

The National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Japan said in its report that the people infected with the variant were found at the airport screening in Tokyo on Jan. 2.

They had traveled from Amazonas, a state in northern Brazil that is home to the city of Manaus, home to two million people, and the first place where the variant was found.

The Disease Institute (NIID) said: “Information on the variant isolate is limited to data on the viral genome sequence.

Further research is needed to assess the infectivity, pathogenicity and impact on laboratory diagnosis and the effectiveness of the vaccine of this variant strain.

"NIID recommends that individuals infected with the variant isolate be monitored in an isolated room and that an active epidemiological investigation be initiated, including contact tracing (with source investigation) and clinical follow-up."

Ministers and experts have said that the recurrence of new variants is a warning sign that the coronavirus is often evolving and that some of the developments are significantly changing how the virus works.

Although the variants already discovered do not appear to make the virus any more deadly or have the ability to get past a vaccine, the more different variants there are, the more likely it is than that one mutation is a disaster.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, virologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, told The Telegraph: “This variant is a wake-up call that we should try to really reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus). .

"It is clear that if you let the virus around it, it has the ability to outsmart us and improve the transmission and bypassing of the antibody response."

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