SURGE testing has been deployed to areas in Leeds to tackle new cases of the South African variant.
Locals are urged to take up any offer of a test and book themselves in to get checked – to nip any spread of the variant in the bud.
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A local at a test site in London – more testing facilities have been rolled out to Leeds hotspotsCredit: AFP or licensors
Surge testing has been rolled out to 19 areas in England
A Department of Health statement said: “Working in partnership with the local authority, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to targeted areas in Leeds LS8.
“Including parts of Harehills and the area just north of Easterly Road where the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.
“Extra testing is being introduced in addition to existing extensive testing, and in combination with following the current lockdown rules and remembering Hands Face Space advice, will help to monitor and suppress the spread of the virus. “
Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help understand Covid-19 variants and their spread within those areas.
There are 217 confirmed and probable cases of the South African variant in the UK.
The majority are in England, with 12 places seeing a surge in testing as more cases emerge.
Community testing for asymptomatic people is available every day, with plans for extra screening and testing for the variant on the way.
The variant was first found in the country in December and experts have warned that it can spread at a faster rate than others – with hundreds more undetected cases thought to be in the country.
Out of several new variants of Covid which have spread in the UK since the end of 2020, the three of most concern emerged in Kent (B1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.2).
The South African variant has a mutation called E484K, which scientists believe could make vaccines less effective.
It causes a change on the spike protein – found on the outside of the virus – that plays an important role in helping the virus to enter cells as well as the immune system’s response to it.
Early studies have shown the E484K mutation is better able to hide from antibodies that kill the virus.
Vaccine companies have confirmed their jab works less efficiently – but still to some degree – on this mutation.
There is not yet any evidence to suggest that symptoms differ from the three Covid-19 symptoms already highlighted by the NHS.
The three main coronavirus symptoms are a new persistent cough, a high temperature and a loss of taste and smell (anosmia).
If you have any of these symptoms then you should isolate immediately and get a test.