Portugal detects first cases of Brazilian COVID-19 variant, SIC TV says

LISBON, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The first two cases of the new Brazilian variant of the coronavirus were detected in Portugal on Wednesday, broadcaster SIC said, two weeks after all flights to and from the South American nation were suspended.

SIC reported that both cases of the Brazilian variant were detected in the Lisbon area and had already been reported to health authorities by Unilabs, a private diagnostics provider performing most coronavirus tests in Portugal.

The country’s public health research institute Ricardo Jorge will analyse Unilab’s samples, SIC said. Unilabs was not immediately available for comment.

Flights between Portugal and Brazil were suspended on Jan. 29 until Feb. 14 in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants.

Only humanitarian and repatriation flights are allowed, with travellers required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours in advance of boarding and quarantine for 14 days upon arrival back in Portugal.

The Brazilian variant shares some characteristics with highly transmissible mutations first detected in Britain and South Africa, both of which were already present in Portugal.

Portugal fared better than other nations in Europe in the first wave of the pandemic, but 2021 brought a devastating surge in infections and deaths, in part blamed on the rapid spread of the UK variant.

More than 14,700 people have died of COVID-19 in the country so far, with cumulative infections since the start of the pandemic at nearly 775,000.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Victoria Waldersee and Bill Berkrot