Covid-19 news: Search underway in UK to identify Brazil variant case

BRISTOL, ENGLAND – MARCH 1: A worker takes a coronavirus test through the window of a car.

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Latest coronavirus news as of 5pm on 1 March

Health officials in England attempt to trace person infected with P.1 virus variant

Efforts are underway in England to trace a person infected with the P.1 coronavirus variant, after they used a home testing kit but didn’t complete a registration form. The P.1 variant was first identified in people who were travelling from Brazil to Japan on 10 January, and the infected person is one of six cases of the P.1 variant detected in the UK in February. Three of the six cases were detected in England and the remaining three in Scotland. Public health officials are appealing for anyone who hasn’t yet received a result from a test on 12 or 13 February to come forward by calling 119. Since 15 February, travellers arriving in England from 33 countries – including Brazil – have been required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days. In Scotland, the hotel quarantine rule applies to all international arrivals.


UK prime minister Boris Johnson said the government has no intention to reverse its plans to ease coronavirus restrictions in England. “Our whole strategy is to go forward in a way that is cautious but irreversible. And we don’t think that there’s any reason on this basis to change that now,” he told journalists on 1 March. Under the government’s current plans, schools in England are expected to reopen on 8 March. To support this planned reopening of schools, the government has said that families with children in school will be able to test themselves for coronavirus twice a week from home, free of charge.

Across the UK, more than 20 million people have received a first dose of a covid-19 vaccine.

Other coronavirus news

The first covid-19 vaccinations through the World Health Organization’s COVAX scheme were administered in Ghana and Ivory Coast on 1 March. “This is a day many of us have been dreaming of,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement. “I am sure that through COVAX and international solidarity we will be able to reach the most at-risk everywhere. Global equitable access to life-saving vaccines is the surest way to save lives and rebuild economies,” he said. Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire received 600,000 and 504,000 doses respectively of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine licensed and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

The European Commission plans to present a proposal on creating an EU-wide digital covid-19 passport, which could allow EU citizens to travel more freely within the bloc during the summer. The “digital green pass” would provide proof that a person has been vaccinated against covid-19 or coronavirus test results for those who haven’t been vaccinated. “The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad – for work or tourism,” said European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. 

The US Food and Drug Administration has authorised Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot covid-19 vaccine for emergency use. The first doses of the vaccine will be transported to US states on 1 March.

Coronavirus deaths

Covid deaths

The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 2.53 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 114.2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

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The New York Times is tracking hospital bed occupancy in England in an interactive graphic.

Panorama: The Race for a Vaccine is a BBC documentary about the inside story of the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against covid-19.

Race Against the Virus: Hunt for a Vaccine is a Channel 4 documentary which tells the story of the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of the scientists on the frontline.

The New York Times is assessing the progress of different vaccine candidates and potential drug treatments for covid-19, and ranking them for effectiveness and safety.

Humans of COVID-19 is a project highlighting the experiences of key workers on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus in the UK, through social media.

Belly Mujinga: Searching for the Truth is a BBC Panorama investigation of the death of transport worker Belly Mujinga from covid-19, following reports she had been coughed and spat on by a customer at London’s Victoria Station.

Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week – from technology and space, to health and the environment.

COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened, and How to Stop the Next One by Debora Mackenzie is about how the pandemic happened and why it will happen again if we don’t do things differently in future.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how diseases spread and why they stop.

Coronavirus vaccine

A healthcare professional draws up a dose of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.

OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

26 February

One dose of Pfizer vaccine shows 75 per cent reduction in asymptomatic infections

There is yet more good news on vaccine effectiveness. A study based on nearly 9000 coronavirus tests done on healthcare workers in Cambridge, UK, has found that asymptomatic infections fell by 75 per cent 12 days after they got one dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. There was a similar reduction in symptomatic infections.

The finding is significant because it shows the vaccine will greatly reduce the spread of the virus. It was already clear from clinical trials and previous studies that the Pfizer vaccine is highly effective at preventing symptomatic infections but we did not know how many vaccinated people might still get infected without symptoms and potentially pass the disease on to others.

“This will mean a substantial reduction in transmission of the virus as more and more people are vaccinated, which is really great news,” study leader Mike Weekes at the University of Cambridge, told the Guardian.

Other coronavirus news

Fifty million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been given to people in the US since President Joe Biden took office 37 days ago, taking the total to around 67 million. Biden had promised to deliver 100 million doses in his first 100 days, so his administration is on course to comfortably beat this target. But he warned that things will not return to normal soon. “This is not a victory lap. Everything is not fixed. We have a long way to go. And that day when everything is back to normal depends on all of us,” Biden said.

New Zealand has reported one more locally acquired case of coronavirus. The infected person went to work at a fast food restaurant on Monday despite being told to isolate at home. But officials say the small cluster of cases in Auckland is under control, and have not imposed another lockdown on the city. “This is a situation where we know the source of the cases [and] we know where there may have been contact with others,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Coronavirus deaths

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The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 2.5 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 113 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

See previous updates from February 2021, January 2021, November/December 2020, and March to November 2020.

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