Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Surge testing in two new areas after South African variant detected
24 February 2021, 18:11 | Updated: 24 February 2021, 19:01
Surge testing is being introduced in two new parts of England after cases of the highly transmissible South African Covid variant were detected.
People affected by the increased testing regime will include those within the HP10 postcode in Buckinghamshire, near High Wycombe, and the SW8 and SW9 postcodes in Lambeth, south London, which includes parts of Vauxhall and Brixton.
Individuals living in these areas are being "strongly encouraged" to take a coronavirus test when offered, whether or not they have any symptoms.
A government spokeswoman said: "Further targeted areas will have additional testing made available to control and suppress the potential spread of a Covid-19 variant.
"Working in partnership with the local authorities, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to targeted areas within the HP10 postcode in Buckinghamshire and SW8 and SW9 postcodes in Lambeth, where the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.
"The increased testing is being introduced in addition to existing extensive testing and, in combination with the current lockdown rules and remembering Hands Face Space advice, will help to monitor and suppress the spread of the virus."
It comes as the UK recorded a further 442 deaths of people who people who had tested positive for Covid-19 within the previous 28 days. The nation's grim tally now stands at 121,747.
There were another 9,938 confirmed infections recorded on Wednesday, which sees the total number of cases rise to 4,144,577.
Meanwhile, the latest vaccination update saw 326,692 more people receive their first jab.
More than 18.2 million Brits have now received an initial dose, while almost 670,000 have been given a second.
Elsewhere, the public is being urged to persist with staying at home with a new advertising campaign.
The video also urges people to keep going with behavioural changes including mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing.
England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said "we must all continue to play our part" in controlling the spread of the virus.
The nation's stay at home order will remain in place until at least 29 March despite the minor easing of restrictions and the return of schools on 8 March.
Prof Whitty said: "Infection rates are falling, but they still remain very high and the impact of Covid-19 is still putting pressure on hospitals across the country.
"Vaccines give clear hope for the future, but for now we must all continue to play our part in protecting the NHS and saving lives."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "The British resolve during this pandemic has been astounding. We've all pulled together to help each other out."
He added: "So let's keep going. I encourage everyone to keep playing their part and stay at home - keep washing your hands, wearing a mask and maintaining a social distance which will ensure that, together, we beat this."