Surge testing in two new areas after South African Covid variant detected

4 March 2021, 17:16 | Updated: 5 March 2021, 13:13

Surge testing will be introduced in two new areas after a case of the South African variant was detected
Surge testing will be introduced in two new areas after a case of the South African variant was detected. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Surge testing is being introduced in two new parts of England after cases of the highly transmissible South African coronavirus variant were detected.

People affected by the increased testing regime will include those within the TS19 postcode in Stockton-on-Tees, north-east England, and anyone living in the North Wembley area of Brent, north-west London.

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 the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa.

"Working in partnership with the local authorities, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to targeted areas within Stockton-on-Tees (TS19) and Brent (North Wembley), 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 public following current lockdown rules and Hands Face Space advice, will help to monitor and suppress the spread of the virus."

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It comes as the UK recorded a further 242 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 124,025.

There were another 6,573 confirmed infections recorded on Thursday, which sees the total number of cases rise to 4,201,358.

Meanwhile, the latest vaccination update saw 278,956 more people receive their first jab.

Nearly 21 million Brits have now received an initial dose, while almost one million have been given a second.

Elsewhere, more than four in 10 over-80s who received a Covid-19 vaccine have admitted to breaking current lockdown restrictions after getting jabbed, an ONS survey has revealed.

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Some 43% of elderly people said they had met someone other than a personal care support worker, member of their household or support bubble indoors since being vaccinated.

Current rules introduced in England at the start of January mean family or friends cannot meet socially indoors unless they are in the same household or support bubble.

Meanwhile, teachers and those who work in childcare have had a "little bit higher risk" of contracting coronavirus over lockdown than those who do not, new figures suggest.

Scientists have previously said that jobs which are "open" are likely to carry higher rates of infection during this period when other workers have been instructed to stay at home.

In January, people who worked in education - including schools, nurseries or childcare - had 20% higher odds of infection compared to those who do not work in these professions.

But in February, this rose to 43%, according to data from Imperial College London's React study which has been analysing data from swab tests taken from people across England since May last year.