“Targeted testing is also taking place in a city school"
Testing is being carried out at a Leicester school after three cases of the Indian strain of Covid-19 was found.
Leicester City Council stated that the cases were linked to travel from India prior to it being placed on Government’s red list on April 23, 2021.
The city’s director of public health, Professor Ivan Browne, said they require investigation and follow-up.
Professor Browne added that further testing at the Leicester school is a precautionary measure.
The school has not been named and it is not known whether the Indian strain is among pupils or staff members.
Positive tests in a school may concern health chiefs because it is likely that the infected staff or pupils came into contact with other people.
Government data up to April 21, 2021, showed there are 132 confirmed cases of the Indian variant in the UK, but experts say there is much more.
Professor Browne said Public Health England (PHE) notified him of the cases.
He said: “Public Health England notified us on Sunday that it had identified three cases of the variant known as VUI-21-APR in Leicester.
“PHE has already been in touch with the people concerned and some of their contacts.
“Since then we have been working closely with PHE to ensure that all close contacts of those affected are identified and advised to self-isolate for 10 days.
“Targeted testing is also taking place in a city school as a precautionary measure.”
Leicester has repeatedly been a Covid-19 hotspot. It has the second-biggest Indian community in England, with around 38,000 people making up 28% of the city’s population.
Professor Brown continued:
“There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of mortality.”
“Our advice to everyone remains the same.
“The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to keep washing or sanitising your hands, wear a face covering in public places, stay apart from those you don’t live with, and abide by the restrictions in place.
“Regardless of whether you have travelled recently, everyone is encouraged to take up the offer of twice-weekly testing so that we can stop the spread of the virus.”
The UK’s cases come as India struggles to cope with a second wave of Covid-19 cases.
It has left hospitals overloaded and medical equipment in short supply.
Daily cases are reaching more than 300,000.
It is unclear whether the variant is behind the surging outbreak in India or whether the rise is part of an outbreak that would have happened anyway.
Dr Meenal Viz, a Luton-based doctor, said the surge in India will soon create a “humanitarian crisis”.
She said Delhi, where several family members have contracted the virus, is one of India’s “worst-hit places at the moment”.
Dr Viz said: “For a good part of the year, I’ve been trying to stay in touch with my family and especially my elderly grandmother, who hasn’t left the house in a year because she’s so terrified of what could potentially come her way.
“Last year we had lots of relatives who’ve been unwell with Covid; one of them had to actually get admitted into hospital, but luckily that was at a time where there wasn’t so much of a shortage of oxygen or ICU beds.
“I knew a year ago that there was going to be a point, whether a variant would come along, or once everyone could travel, that this would actually be quite deadly to the population in terms of the number of ICU beds, number of respirators… it would be catastrophic.”
She added: “One of my biggest worries is that it took some time for our leaders to put India on the red list for travel.
“I’m not sure why exactly that happened, but the worry is that if that comes here, all the hard work that we put in in the last year in lockdown and isolation and getting vaccinated might not be as fruitful as we’d hoped it would be.”