New Philippines-linked COVID variant investigated in England after two cases found

Public Health England is investigating a new COVID variant – first reported in the Philippines – after two cases were found.

The variant – VUI-21MAR-02 (P3) – has been designated a variant under investigation, rather than a variant of concern such as the Manaus strain.

In a statement, the health authority said: “On 9 March PHE noted a report of 33 cases of a new variant reported by the Philippines.”

It added: “The variant includes a number of notable mutations including E484K and N501Y, which are found in several other variants of concern.

“Public Health England has identified two cases of this variant in England. One of the cases is linked with international travel and the other is currently under investigation.

“All appropriate public health interventions are being undertaken.”

It comes as two new cases of the P1 variant first reported in Brazil have been found in the London area of Haringey and the West Midlands.

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Both cases are linked with travel to Brazil, PHE said.

The West Midlands case was identified after the person’s arrival at Birmingham Airport, where they were tested and quarantine as part of the managed hotel quarantine process.

The case in London was found through surge testing, which will be increased in the affected area.

Contact tracing teams have also been investigating to identify further contacts of the person.

This means that the number of P1 cases in the UK has increased to 12 – nine in England and three in Scotland, all of which have links to travel or to a previously confirmed case that has travelled to Brazil.

It comes as the UK recorded another 110 coronavirus-related deaths and 5,294 new cases in the latest 24-hour period.

A total of 125,690 people have now died within 28 days of a positive test for COVID-19.

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