Japan’s health ministry said on Sunday it had detected a new variant of COVID-19 in four travelers from Brazil’s Amazonas state which featured 12 mutations, including one also found in highly infections variants discovered in Britain and South Africa.

“We are concerned about the new Brazilian variant … and we’re taking steps (to protect the country) … in respect of the Brazilian variant,” Johnson told a parliamentary committee.

“I think it’s fair to say that there are lots of questions we still have about that variant.”

Johnson went on to say that there were 70% more patients in hospital with COVID-19 than at the peak in April last year.

He said the strain on the NHS was “colossal”.

Video Transcript

BORIS JOHNSON: We are concerned about the new Brazilian variant. And that’s why we’ve already have tough measures, as you know, to protect this country from new infections coming in from abroad. And we’re taking steps to do that in respect to the Brazilian variant.

I think it’s fair to say that there are lots of questions we still have about that about that variant. And you know, we don’t know, for instance, any more than we know from whether the South African variant is vaccine-resistant. There are about 32,000 COVID inpatients, as you know. That’s about 70% more than there were at the peak in April last year.

And the pressure is very considerable. If you ask me when do we think that the ICU capacity is likely to be I can’t give you a prediction for that. But all I can say is that the risk is very substantial.