Grant Shapps 'not aware' of Brazilian strain of coronavirus in UK

Transport secretary Grant Shapps during a media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Transport secretary Grant Shapps during a media briefing in Downing Street on coronavirus (COVID-19) - Credit: PA

The transport secretary has been criticised after claiming he was "not aware" the Brazilian strain of coronavirus was in the UK - despite scientists going public about two cases hours later.

Shapps described a ban on travel from South America, which includes an exemption for British and Irish nationals, as a “precautionary” measure to ensure the vaccination programme rolling out across the UK was not disrupted by new variants of the virus.

Asked if the Brazilian strain was currently in the country, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Not as far as we are aware, I think, at this stage.

“There haven’t been any flights that I can see from the last week from Brazil, for example.”

But a leading virologist has said one of the two variants has been detected in the UK.


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Professor Wendy Barclay, who is advising the government’s Covid-19 response, said the variant may have been “introduced some time ago”.

She explained this was not the mutation of concern that had been picked up in travellers going to Japan.

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But she later clarified: “The new Brazilian variant of concern, that was picked up in travellers going to Japan, has not been detected in the UK.

“Other variants that may have originated from Brazil have been previously found.”

Shapps' comments just two hours before it became public knowledge was criticised.

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