Boris Johnson will address the nation at 5pm (Picture: AFP)
Boris Johnson is holding a press conference at Downing Street at 5pm today, No 10 has confirmed.
He will be joined by the Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Partick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
It comes after it was confirmed that one of two Brazilian variants of coroanvirus has been detected in the UK.
Professor Wendy Barclay, who is advising the Government’s Covid-19 response, said the variant may have been ‘introduced some time ago’.
Her comments came just hours after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was ‘not aware’ of any cases of the strain that led him to impose a travel ban on South America.
Prof Barclay, head of the G2P-UK National Virology Consortium, a new project set up to study the effects of emerging coronavirus mutations, said: ‘There are two different types of Brazilian variants and one of them has been detected and one of them has not.
‘In the databases, if you search the sequences, you will see that there is some evidence for variants from around the world, and I believe including the Brazilian one, which probably was introduced some time ago.
‘That will be being traced very carefully.’
The Imperial College virologist said that one of the two Brazil variants was picked up in Japan from travellers and the other is ‘more prevalent in Brazil’.
She warned that studies are suggesting the Brazil variants ‘might impact the way that some people’s antibodies can see the virus’, so there may be a risk of reinfection which would have ‘big implications’.
But she later released a statement saying that the new Brazilian strain detected in the UK is not the one of concern, which is the one that was picked up in Japan.
Scientists sounded the alarm about that variant this week, warning that Covid vaccines might not work against it.
That was followed by the announcement of a South American travel ban, which also covers the Central American state of Panama and Portugal – due to its strong travel links with Brazil – and the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde.
It came into force at 4am on Friday.
Mr Shapps described the ban 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.’
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