Cases of a new strain of coronavirus first found in Brazil have been identified in Scotland.

The variant is thought to be able to spread more rapidly, and experts believe it may respond less well to existing vaccines.

Here's everything we know about the new variant so far:

What is the Brazil variant?

The Brazillian variant is being referred to as P.1. It was detected in December 2020 in Manaus, in northern Brazil, and is thought to have also been detected in Japan at the same time.

Is it more dangerous than other variants?

Scientists and health experts appear to be concerned with this variant. The Brazilian P.1. carries similar mutations to the versions found in the UK and South Africa - notably, mutations that seem to allow it to transmit more easily.

It is not believed to be more deadly, however it does spread more easily than the original Covid-19 strain.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said the P.1 variant is similar in terms of its mutations to the variant first detected iN South Africa.

Irvine Times:

“In terms of its profile, this P.1 variant is much closer to the South African variant, which we’ve been dealing with now for several weeks by surge testing, genome sequencing and isolation,” he told Sky News.

“This variant is a variant of concern, it is very similar in terms of its mutations to the South African variant. So, it is concerning.”

Are current vaccines effective against the Brazilian variant?

Clinical and trial data continue to be assessed to examine how the new variant may respond to current Covid-19 vaccines.

Much like the South African variant, the Brazilian one carries a mutation in the spike protein called E484K, raising concerns that vaccines may not be as effective against it.

Is the Brazilian variant in Scotland?

Yes, it is.

On Sunday, it was confirmed that there have been three cases of this particular variant identified in Scotland. There are several more in England, however they are not thought to be related.

Should we be worried?

We’ve been told that we should be “somewhat worried but not total panic” by Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College.

He told Times Radio: “It’s somewhat more worrying than the UK variant, the Kent variant, that we’re used to talking about, because it covers the double whammy, we think, of being more transmissible and somewhat better at evading neutralising antibodies.”

On what it would mean for the vaccination programme if the variant became widespread, he added: “The way I think about it is it’s a bit like, and I think about the effect that the Kent variant had on us, it just slowed everything up because suddenly things started to get a little bit worse again, and you know the end seemed a little bit further away.

“When I look at the data on how well this variant gets neutralised, it’s not that all immunity is gone, it’s that the vaccines look so much less potent, so there’ll be more people who have low antibody responses where it can break through and get affected. It all comes back much harder.”

Will the new variant impact the easing of lockdown in Scotland?

It’s too early to say. Scotland is expected to return to a tiered system from April 26, with the stay at home restriction lifted from April 5.

Back in December, just before the Christmas period, restrictions were significantly tightened to prevent the spread of a new variant.

But it is too early to say if this will be repeated.