Additional testing has been deployed across the UK after a COVID-19 variant originally identified in South Africa has been found
Additional surge testing and sequencing is being deployed in a number of locations across the UK where the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.
The postcodes being specifically targetted are:
- East of England (EN10)
- London (W7, N17, CR4)
- North West (PR9)
- South East (ME15, GU21)
- West Midlands (WS2)
Every person over 16 living in these locations is strongly encouraged to take a COVID test, whether they are showing symptoms or not. Mobile testing units (MTUs) will be deployed offering PCR testing to people without symptoms who have to leave their home for work or essential reasons.
Public Health England has identified 105 cases of the variant first identified in South Africa since 22nd December. Extensive monitoring of the virus has identified a small number of cases in localities across England that cannot be traced back to international travel.
There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“It is vital that we do all we can to stop transmission of this variant and I strongly urge everyone in these areas to get tested, whether you have symptoms or not. The best way to stop the spread of the virus – including new variants – is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place. Until more people are vaccinated this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus.
“The UK is a global leader in COVID-19 genomics, and because of this, we have been able to identify new strains of the virus and take decisive action. We continue to closely monitor new variants, here and around the world, and in addition to our already extensive testing service, we are making surge testing capacity available to affected areas.”
Dr Susan Hopkins, Strategic Response Director to Public Health England and Chief Medical Adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said:
“As part of our proactive sequencing work, we know that the new variant of COVID-19, first detected in South Africa, has been identified in a number of areas across England. A small proportion of these cases have no link to international travel suggesting that there are some cases in the community.
“In response to this, we are ramping up testing in targeted areas, so we can gather more information and effectively monitor any further community transmission.”