SURGE testing has been deployed to two new areas of England to stop the spread of the South Africa Covid variant.
People living in Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, and Brent, north west London, are urged to take up the offer of a test.
? Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates…
Extra Covid testing will be rolled out in two new areas after cases of the South Africa variant were detectedCredit: PA:Press Association
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 cases thought to be undetected.
A Department of Health statement said: “Working in partnership with the local authorities, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to targeted areas within Stockton-on-Tees (TS19) and Brent (North Wembley), where the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.
“The increased testing is being introduced in addition to existing extensive testing and, in combination with the public following current lockdown rules and 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 increase our understanding of Covid-19 variants and their spread within these areas.
“Enhanced contact tracing will be used for individuals testing positive with a variant of concern.
“This is where contact tracers look back over an extended period in order to determine the route of transmission.
“People living within the targeted areas are strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test when offered, whether they are showing symptoms or not.
“People with symptoms should book a free test online or by phone so they can get tested at a testing site or have a testing kit sent to them at home.”
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).
But earlier this week, health bosses revealed they had detected six cases of another Brazilian strain, known as P1, first identified in the city of Manaus.
Residents in five postcodes have been urged to get tested – while officials continue to hunt for one of the six people who has not been traced.
Experts are worried that this particular strain could put people at risk of reinfection from Covid.
A study this week suggested that between 25 per cent and 61 per cent of people in the city of Manaus who had previously had Covid were susceptible to reinfection with the worrying P1 variant found there.
Another new variant has been identified in the UK, health bosses revealed today.
Public Health England said 16 cases of a variant known as VUI-202102/04 have been detected.
The variant has been designated a “variant under investigation”, which means it will be closely monitored but surge testing won’t be rolled out.
It is understood to be an evolution of the UK variant, containing the E484K mutation, and similar to the one found in Liverpool earlier this year.
But it doesn’t feature the the N501Y mutation, found in all variants of concern (VOCs) such as the South African and Braziliant variants.
The woman, who didn’t want to be named, tested positive for the E484K mutation of the original coronavirus strain in January.