"this is the only way we will control the spread"
A surge in testing will be rolled out across parts of England over the Covid-19 strain that was first discovered in South Africa.
Door-to-door testing is set to happen over concerns that the variant could be spreading in some regions.
A “small number” of people have been found with the Covid-19 variant, despite having no travel links.
This means that all those over 16-years-old in affected areas will be asked to take a PCR test.
A “surge testing” scheme will begin in:
- London – Ealing, Haringey and Croydon
- West Midlands – Walsall
- East of England – Broxbourne
- South East – Maidstone and Guildford
- North West – Preston
On February 1, 2021, Surrey County Council said that two people had contracted the South African strain with “no links to travel or previous variant cases”.
Those living in the Goldsworth Park and St Johns areas of Woking will have a test posted through their letterbox.
Officials will collect it later the same day and it will be sent to a lab for analysis.
In the coming days, the scheme will be extended to Egham.
In Kent, police officers will be among the groups visiting households in the Maidstone area and urging people to “carry out a PCR test there and then”.
People in the affected areas do not need to self-isolate unless they show symptoms, have already tested positive or were identified through Test and Trace as a close contact of someone else who has Covid-19.
The Department for Health and Social Care said:
“There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “vital we do all we can to stop transmission of this variant” and urged everyone asked to get tested to do so.
He added: “The best way to stop the spread of the virus – including new variants – is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place.
“Until more people are vaccinated, this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus.”
So far, a total of 105 cases of the South Africa variant have been found in the UK.
Previously, Mr Hancock said all cases identified so far were connected to travel from South Africa.
However, community transmission seems to have been detected.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to reassure citizens. He said:
“We’re confident that all the vaccines we’re using provide a high degree of immunity and protection against all variants.
“The interesting and exciting thing about the vaccines we’re developing is increasing, they’re capable of being adapted to deal with new variants as they arise.
“The fact is we’re going to be living with Covid for a while to come in one way or another.”
Professor Anthony Harnden, chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said at the end of January 2021:
“The new variants abroad are a real worry – the South African and the Brazilian ones.”
“And there are hints that there will be vaccine escape but I think we’re going to have to get used to this.
“We are living in a world where coronavirus is so prevalent and naturally mutating that there are going to be new variants that pop up in all sorts of different countries.
“We may well be in a situation where we end up having to have an annual coronavirus vaccine much like we do with the flu vaccine.
“But the public want to be reassured that actually these technologies are relatively easy to edit and tweak and once we find strains that are predominant, the vaccines can be altered.”