The mystery person in Britain infected with the Brazil variant of coronavirus has been found in Croydon, Matt Hancock confirmed today.
They were found when the genetics of tests taken by returning travellers were analysed, with results showing they were positive for P1.
Three cases were in Scotland and three in England, with five of them quickly tracked down, but one was unidentified because they had not given any contact details when they posted their coronavirus swab to the lab.
A huge search was then launched and an appeal made for the person in England to come forward.
Mr Hancock said on Tuesday that the search had been narrowed to 379 homes in the South East after NHS Test and Trace managed to identify the batch of home test kits the swab had been taken from.
Now, two officials have told the Financial Times that the mystery person has been located.
It comes as a study has suggested that Oxford and AstraZeneca’s vaccine will still work against the Brazilian variant after scientists worried it would be less effective. A full study is expected to be published later this month.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Tuesday (pictured) that the hunt had been narrowed down to 379 households in the South East of England. He will confirm more details about the discovery of the case at a Downing Street briefing at 5pm
PHE now has four variants ‘under investigation’ and four more which it describes as ‘variants of concern’, which include the Brazilian P1 variant
Mr Hancock told the Commons earlier this week that the appeal had resulted in a number of leads and it was thought the affected person had taken a home test, which was dated to February 12 or 13.
Kent and Surrey councils told MailOnline they were not aware of efforts to track the case in their populations, ruling out a third of the region’s 9million people.
Department of Health officials, who worked alongside the Royal Mail to find the missing case, refused to specify their search area.
OXFORD VACCINE WORKS AGAINST BRAZIL VARIANT, SCIENTISTS CLAIM
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine appears to work against the P1 Brazilian coronavirus variant in lab studies.
A source told Reuters that a study by Oxford University suggested that the vaccine would work well enough as it is at preventing illness from the mutated strain.
The exact efficacy of the vaccine against the variant wasn’t revealed, but a study is expected to be published later this month.
Scientists had been concerned about the effectiveness of the jab because it appears to work less well against the South African strain, which has very similar mutations.
Scientists and government advisers were worried about the variant cases because they were the first to be confirmed in Britain.
The mutations on the Brazilian strain of the virus have been found in studies to make immunity from vaccines or previous infections to be weaker than it normally would be.
This threatens to make the jabs less effective is the variant becomes widespread, although it isn’t expected to because of the lockdown.
Dr Simon Clarke, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, said it was unlikely that the person was still infectious.
He told MailOnline: ‘Even if it was an old person, the chances are they didn’t get particularly ill and resolved the infection…
‘The chances are that person no longer has the virus.’
Out of the six total cases in the UK three were Scottish residents who flew to Aberdeen from Brazil via Paris and London, who all tested positive while self-isolating.
Other passengers who were on the same flight to Aberdeen are now being traced.
The other two cases in England were from the same household in South Gloucestershire, one of whom returned from Brazil on February 10 – just days before the Government’s hotel quarantine rule came into force.
Two other people in the same household have also tested positive but are not currently included in the UK case total of six, while tests on their type of coronavirus continue.
Officials are searching for passengers who were on the Swiss Air flight LX318 from Sao Paulo to Heathrow, via Zurich, which landed on February 10.
Surge testing is being done in the Bradley Stoke, Patchway and Little Stoke areas of South Gloucestershire to capture any potential spread in cases.
The Brazilian and South African variants of the coronavirus are the two concerning officials in the UK because they might make vaccines less effective or increase the risk of reinfection.
The main mutations they carry are all on the virus’s external spike protein, which it uses to latch onto the body, and are named N501Y and E484K, and they both have similar but slightly different mutations on the K417 gene.
N501Y is also found in the Kent variant, and is what makes all three versions of the virus spread faster than older strains, which is why they are now taking over.
E484K and the K417 mutations, found on the Brazil and South Africa strains but not the English one, makes the virus less susceptible to immune cells made in response to older versions of the virus or to vaccines.
This means people are more likely to get infected even if they have immunity from having Covid or from a vaccine.
But the mutations are likely to only reduce some of the vaccines’ effectiveness against mild illness, while they should still prevent severe illness and death.