Health chiefs have said they are “tracking” those on a London to Aberdeen flight with three people in the north-east who have contracted the Brazilian variant of Covid-19.
Holyrood confirmed last night the new strain of the virus was identified in the north-east by testing three Scottish residents who returned to the country from Brazil, via Paris and London.
The ‘variant of concern’ was first identified in Manaus, Brazil, and is considered more infectious.
However, national clinical director, Jason Leitch, looked to quell any worries about the spread of the virus by stating there was “no evidence” of community transmission in Grampian.
Taking to the social media platform Twitter, he said: “We have no evidence of community transmission of this variant first found in Brazil but we are vigilant and we need everyone to follow the safety measures.”
The infected travellers were first tested in early February with the results passed to the UK’s advanced sequencing capabilities programme which detected this new variant.
Scottish health secretary, Jeane Freeman, described the identification of the new Covid-19 variant in Scotland as “a concern” but said the government was “taking every possible precaution”.
She said: “This new variant demonstrates how serious Covid is and reinforces the need to minimise the spread of the virus.
“These three strands – following expert advice and guidance to suppress the virus, using our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission and rolling out vaccination as fast as supplies allow – are the three critical actions that will see us move, step by step, to protect the public, save lives and a brighter year ahead.”
“The Covid vaccination programme is one of three key ways we are working to beat this virus, along with our expanded testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission, and the important lockdown restrictions everyone in Scotland must follow.
“We would encourage everyone across the country to adhere to the necessary public health restrictions by staying at home except for essential purposes as this is the single best way of staying safe and stopping the spread of this virus.
“It is now also illegal for anyone to travel to or from Scotland unless it is for an essential reason.”
The Scottish Government also said the identified cases in the north-east are not connected to three cases also identified in England.
Leading north-east microbiologist, Professor Hugh Pennington, said he believes both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines will be “pretty effective” despite the Brazilian variant being more infectious.
He said: “The consensus view is that the vaccine may not work quite as well, but it still works pretty well.
“It is designed to protect against serious infection, there is the debate about how well it protects against people being affected without getting any symptoms and protecting those who come into contact with those affected, but the big issue is does it protect against serious infection and all the evidence suggests it does.
“It might not be quite as effective but it’s pretty effective so there is no need to worry.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said it was ramping up testing for those “contacts of contacts” who may have been in close proximity with the affected persons.
She said: “Health protection specialists have assessed the cases and, as part of the Test and Protect strategy, their close contacts have been followed up and are being offered Covid-19 testing as usual.
“As an additional safety measure, the health protection team are also working to identify those with whom the close contacts may have been in contact – these people are best described as the contacts of contacts.
“All will be offered a test. This is not standard procedure but is being undertaken in this exceptional circumstance to be absolutely sure all possible precautions are being taken.
“The majority of people in Grampian should be reassured that they will not be directly affected by these cases.”