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The South African variant of coronavirus has been discovered in eight different areas of England, sparking a “a two-week sprint to test everyone” in the affected postcodes, the Guardian has learned.
Door-to-door testing is being launched after cases of the mutation were found in Hertfordshire, Surrey, Kent, Walsall, Sefton and in the London boroughs of Merton, Haringey and Ealing.
In an effort to stop the variant spreading further, tests will start on Thursday in parts of Hertfordshire, where one case of the mutation was discovered, and in Surrey, where two people tested positive despite having no apparent links to other cases.
A briefing on the response, seen by the Guardian, states that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, “has ordered an attempt at eradication of the new variant if at all possible”. Contact-tracing resources will be focused on areas where the testing is carried out.
It states that all adults in affected postcode areas within those boroughs will be urged to get a PCR swab test and public health officials will start going door-to-door this week.
Surrey Local Resilience Forum, Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will carry out “surge testing”, in which residents in the Goldsworth Park and St Johns areas of Woking will be visited and requested to take a PCR test regardless of symptoms.
Ruth Hutchinson, the director of public health for Surrey, said: “This is a precautionary measure – the more cases of the variant we find, the better chance we have at stopping it from spreading further. By playing your part and taking the test, you’ll be helping to keep your community and your loved ones safe.
“It’s really important to say that there is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness, so you don’t need to worry.”
The area affected in Hertfordshire is understood to be the EN10 postcode, which is Broxbourne. Authorities there are also planning systematic waste water sampling to determine how widespread the South African variant is.
The briefing states: “There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it. Virus variation and mutation occurs naturally. The more we suppress new variants the more we will avoid variants which cause problems for treatment or vaccination.”
The South African variant, like the UK variant, may be more transmissible than the original form of coronavirus but health officials stressed there was no evidence it is more transmissible or dangerous than the UK variant.
Door-to-door testing is set to start in Hertfordshire on Thursday. Door-to-door testing has previously been used by authorities in high-infection areas such as the London borough of Redbridge, Leicester and Oldham.
Dr Alison Barnett, a regional director at Public Health England South East, said: “The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world, which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in Surrey. I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.
“The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place: limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: South African variant of Covid found in eight areas of England | World news