Volunteers have been going door-to-door in places hit by the South Africa strain (Picture: Reuters)
Emergency coronavirus testing will be carried out in parts of Middlesbrough, Walsall and Hampshire to help monitor and suppress the South African variant.
Anyone over the age of 16 in these areas are being urged to take a coronavirus test whether or not they have symptoms, with the aim of stamping out the highly transmissible strain.
Additional surge testing and genomic sequencing is now being deployed to the TS7 postcode in Middlesbrough, areas in Walsall and the RG26 postcode in Hampshire.
To make it as easy for people as possible, no appointments will be needed for people visiting test centres in affected areas. Volunteers will also be going door-to-door offering home testing.
The operation in Walsall has been extended in response to a confirmed second case of the variant which is not believed to be linked to international travel.
According to Public Health England data, Middlesbrough currently has the fifth highest infection rate in England.
As of February 8, the rate per 100,000 people stood at 357.5, down slightly from 359.6 the week before.
Surge testing is being deployed to stamp out the South Africa variant quickly (Picture: REX)
Consultant in public health in Middlesbrough Esther Mireku said: ‘I urge everyone over the age of 16 in the Marton and Coulby Newham areas to come forward for a test. This will help us understand more about the potential spread of this new variant.
‘While the overall Covid infection rate in Middlesbrough has now halved from its peak in early January, it has still not decreased as much as we would have liked.
‘The high prevalence of Covid in the town, combined with the reporting of this variant, are a reminder to everyone of the importance of staying at home as much as possible and following hands-face-space when out for an essential reason.’
Local mayor Andy Preston said: ‘New variants are popping up in different towns and cities around the country.
‘What’s really important now is that we establish whether the variant has spread further around Middlesbrough.’
Tees Valley’s elected mayor Ben Houchen said people in the area should not be ‘overly alarmed’.
He added: ‘Our region has made phenomenal progress in vaccinating the majority of our most vulnerable residents thanks to the hard work and dedication of our NHS heroes.’
Surge testing has been used in a number of areas across the country in attempts to get on top of new variants of the disease.
People in areas of Lambeth in South London as well as parts of Worcestershire, Manchester, Kent and Surrey have all been offered tests when cases of new strains have been identified.
The DHSC said surge testing in the Egham and Broxbourne areas, which began on February 6 and February 1, is now complete and further data on surge testing will be provided in due course.
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