Covid surge testing to start in East London after Brazilian and South African variants found

SURGE testing will be deployed in East London after cases of the South African and Brazilian coronavirus variant were discovered.

Health leaders today encouraged anyone living in the E1 postcode of Tower Hamlets to take a test.

The Department of Health said all the confirmed cases were self-isolating,and there were no links between the new cases and the cluster of cases recently identified in the south London area.

Everyone aged 11 and over who lives, works or is educated in these postcodes is being encouraged to take a test when invited, whether they are showing symptoms or not, the DHSC said.

It comes just days after surge testing was deployed in the IG1 and IG6 postcode areas of Redbridge in East London.

And last week surge testing was also deployed in parts of Birmingham after cases of the SA variant were detected.

Surge testing has also taken place in parts of Manchester, Norfolk, Southampton and Surrey.

Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help understand Covid-19 variants and their spread within those areas.

The South Africa variant is deemed to be more transmissible – potentially up to 50 per cent more infectious.

It also has mutations that scientists say allow it to dodge some immunity, with studies showing vaccines are not as effective against it.

At a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said concern around the impact new variants could have on the UK vaccine programme was behind policy decisions to tighten border controls.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said it was difficult to assess how new variants would impact vaccines being rolled out in the UK – but he hoped they would continue to protect against severe illness.

But Prof Van-Tam added that data shows the current jabs are working "extremely well" against the dominant variant in the UK – the Kent B117 variant.


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