Two cases of the new Brazilian variant of coronavirus have been identified near Somerset.

Both infections were discovered in the same household in South Gloucestershire, with one flying from Sao Paulo to London via Zurich.

Six cases of the new strain have been identified in the UK, while surge testing is due to begin in five postcodes on Monday morning.

The two cases in South Gloucestershire include a person who travelled from Sao Paulo back to London’s Heathrow Airport, and they and their household isolated when they got home.

The primary patient returned to the UK five days before the long-trailed hotel quarantine policy took force for Brits returning from Brazil.

Surge door-to-door testing in South Gloucestershire will begin at 9am on Monday to establish whether there are any other cases of the variant in the council area, reports Mirror Online.

Surge testing in five postcodes to begin

Surge testing will be introduced in a number of Gloucestershire postcodes
(Image: PA)

South Gloucestershire Council said surge testing will take place in the following five postcodes for those who are aged 16 and over and asymptomatic, plus those who travel into those areas for work or to visit someone they are in a support bubble with.

The postcodes fall within the Bradley Stoke, Patchway and Little Stoke areas, and are “different to those that were part of the community surge testing programme which took place between February 7 and 21, the council said.

“There is no connection between the two programmes,” it added.

The five postcodes are:

  • BS32 0
  • BS32 8
  • BS32 9
  • BS34 5
  • BS34 6

As a precaution, officials are re-testing all household contacts of the cases in South Gloucestershire.

Health officials are also following up with people who were on the same flight as the South Gloucestershire patient – Swiss Air LX318 which travelled via Zurich on February 10.

People who were on the Swiss Air flight, and their household contacts, are being asked take a test even at this late stage because they could have residual virus that can be detected.

If you were on that flight and have not yet been contacted, please call 0117 4503174 to arrange a test for both yourself and your entire household.

The programme is expected to run for one week, ending on March 7, with the facilities open each day.

Sara Blackmore, director of Public Health at South Gloucestershire Council, urged people who were invited to come forward and take a test.

“We are keen that all South Gloucestershire residents in the postcode areas identified take part in this testing, which will help us to identify positive cases and prompt self-isolation, which helps to break the chain of transmission,” she said.

“We do recognise the challenge for residents of undertaking another additional testing programme and want to thank you in advance for your patience and support as we continue to work together to protect our communities from Covid-19.

“We are working together with local and regional health partners, Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace, to deliver this swift, safe and co-ordinated response, with an enhanced community testing offer available to people in and around areas where this variant has been discovered.”

The surge testing is in addition to testing for people who have symptoms, and regular rapid asymptomatic testing for essential workers.

Ms Blackmore said it would “enable closer monitoring” and work to reduce further transmission of Covid-19.

“Even though we have a national road map to recovery from Covid-19, it is vital that we continue to follow the advice, which remains the same to everyone,” she added.

“Behave as if you are carrying the virus, stay in and only leave home if you must.

“Do not mix socially outside of your household and continue to observe public health guidance – hands, face, space. If you are invited to receive a vaccine, please do so.”

People will be able to collect tests from Little Stoke Community Centre and Patchway Community Centre from Monday.

Two additional sites will open at Bradley Stoke Jubilee Centre and Baileys Court Activity Centre from Tuesday.

South Gloucestershire Council confirmed that any positive tests would be followed up with genome sequencing to identify the precise strain of Covid-19 in each case.

The testing will use PCR tests, which are analysed in laboratories, rather than lateral flow tests.

Mike Wade, deputy regional director for Public Health England South West, said: “All viruses mutate over time and since the start of the pandemic over 4,000 mutations have been identified in the UK.

“Most are not a concern for scientists, but we know that some mutations result in virus variants that we are keen to track more carefully.

“In the South West we’re working with NHS Test and Trace and local authority public health teams on tailored intervention measures for variants.

“These include more testing, additional genomic sequencing and enhanced contact tracing, enabling us to quickly identify any further cases and help prevent any onward spread.”

Three cases of the variant of concern first noted in Manaus, Brazil – known as the P.1 strain – have been identified by Public Health England.

Two are from one household in South Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil. The third is a currently unlinked case in England.

The cases in South Gloucestershire were rapidly followed up by Public Health England’s health protection team, with their contacts identified and tested.

A spokesman for the council said the case that had travelled to Brazil has been “isolating at home with their household” since returning to the UK.

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