CONFIRMED cases of new variants of coronavirus that might be more resistant to the vaccine have more than doubled in Scotland in two weeks as a new Brazilian strain was confirmed to have hit the nation, the Herald can reveal.

Details have emerged as Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday said he knew of no evidence of more variants circulating the country after a spike in cases in some parts of the UK.

Scotland now has its first cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in Brazil - with seven now confirmed, according to data provided to the Herald.

Yesterday, the Scottish Government raised concern about a new Brazilian variant after three cases were identified in Scotland and believed to be the first in the UK.

Following their return to north east Scotland from Brazil, via Paris and London, three Scottish residents entered self-isolation and then subsequently tested positive for coronvirus, it has been confirmed.   These individuals then self-isolated for the required period of 10 days.

Due to the potential concerns around the Brazilian variant other passengers on the flight the three Scots were on, from London to Aberdeen are being contacted.

READ MORE: Vaccine fears as Brazilian coronavirus variant hits Scotland

The tests were completed in early February and passed to the UK’s advanced sequencing capabilities programme which detected the new descendent of B.1.1.28 variant first detected in Japan in travellers from Brazil in January 2021.

HeraldScotland:

The three cases are not connected to three in England, the Scottish government said.

In England, the first two cases were from a household in south Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil, but the third is not linked, Public Health England said. "The identification of this new variant is a concern but we are taking every possible precaution," said Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

"We have identified these cases thanks to our use of advanced sequencing capabilities which means we are finding more variants and mutations than many other countries and are therefore able to take action quickly."

The Scottish government said this variant has been been designated "of concern" as it shares some important mutations with the variant first identified in South Africa.

Research suggests some vaccines may be less effective against the South Africa variant.

Scotland has four more cases of the descendent of B.1.1.28 Brazilian variant reported separately and first sequenced in the UK in November 2020, the Herald can reveal. In England there were 31 cases and none in Wales and Northern Ireland.

HeraldScotland:

The numbers of Scottish cases of a Covid-19 variant, first found in Kent, which the head of the UK's genetic surveillance programme has predicted could become the world's dominant strain have doubled in 14 days. According to official data seen by the Herald, on February 24, there were 2253 cases of the Kent variant 1,194 more than on February 10.

Cases of the Kent variant have risen at a far faster rate than in England and Wales in the two weeks.

And Scotland now has 17 cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa which it is feared is more resistant to the Covid vaccine - up from seven a fortnight ago.

At the end of January, the health secretary Matt Hancock said there was evidence the South African variant "although we are not sure of this data.. reduces by about 50% the vaccine efficacy."

An official Scottish Government analysis from the end of January looking at both Brazilian strains and the South African variant said: "There is some concern based on laboratory analysis that these variants may, to some extent, escape immunity, and we are monitoring the emerging evidence on this."

After the discovery of the latest Brazilian variant cases, that it is possible that this variant may respond less well to current vaccines but said that at this time there is a "high degree of uncertainty and clinical and trial data is awaited to understand this better".

On Friday, health secretary Matt Hancock said Covid-19 cases are still rising in one in five local authority areas in England.

On the Andrew Marr Show, Mr Sunak was asked if it was possible that the new variants are spreading.

He said: "That is not what I have seen in any of the data."

The UK, South Africa and Brazil variants could be much more contagious or easy to catch.

HeraldScotland:

All have undergone changes to their spike protein - the part of the virus which attaches to human cells.

As a result, they seem to be better at infecting cells and spreading.

Current vaccines were designed around earlier versions of coronavirus.

Meanwhile Scotland recorded two deaths from coronavirus and 572 positive tests in the past 24 hours, latest figures show.

Scottish government data shows the daily test positivity rate is 3.8%, up from 3.1% on Saturday.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde recorded 171 cases, along with 114 in Lothian and 95 in Lanarkshire.

There are 837 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 61 in 24 hours, and 78 patients are in intensive care, up by four.

Mr Sunak, told the Andrew Marr Show when asked about the possibility of a spread of new variants of Covid-19: "It is important that we keep following all the rules and we are making fantastic progress. The Prime Minister set out a road map which is cautious... and we can take enormous confidence from the vaccine roll-out."

He was asked if it was not do do with new variants, whether it could be because people are not following government instructions.

He said: "Well I think it is important that we follow the rules. We have a set of rules for a reason, we want to suppress the spread of this virus whilst we roll out our vaccines, which is going fantastically well.

"We also have very good early data that the vaccines are working and are effective which can give us confidence in the road map that the Prime Minister has set out. "And with regards to variants, we always have to keep a watchful eye on all of those."

Asked again if he knew of any evidence of more variants circulating at the moment, he said: "No."