South Africa variant: Doorstep testing rolled out in Bristol and Liverpool as new cases detected
DOORSTEP Covid testing will be extended to two MORE areas after new cases of the South African variant were identified, the Health Secretary said.
Matt Hancock told MPs that 11 cases of "mutations of concern" have been detected in Bristol and 32 in Liverpool while extra testing will be rolled out.
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It comes as the Government rolled out a door-to-door testing drive in eight postcodes across England today as officials race to contain the variant.
In a statement, Mr Hancock set out the UK's progress with its vaccination programme and told the Commons: "Despite this optimistic backdrop we must continue to act with caution, not least because of the renewed challenges posed by new variants of the coronavirus.
"We have found here 105 cases of the variant first identified in South Africa including 11 cases which don't appear to have any links to international travel.
"In those areas where this variant has been found – parts of Broxbourne, London, Maidstone and Southport, Walsall and Woking – we're putting in extra testing and sequencing every positive test.
"Working with local authorities we're going door to door to test everyone in those areas and mobile testing units will be deployed offering PCR tests to people who have to leave their home for work or other essential reasons."
He added: "We have also seen 11 cases of mutations of concern in Bristol and 32 in Liverpool, and are taking the same approach.
"In all these areas it is imperative that people must stay at home and only leave home where it is absolutely essential."
It comes after he warned last night that we need to "come down hard" on the new South African variant.
Mr Hancock ordered those in infected areas to stay inside – and get tested as soon as possible – even without symptoms.
At least 11 people have got the new strain of the virus despite not having travelled themselves.
Over 100 cases have been found in the UK so far.
Anyone in the W7, N17, CR4, WS2, ME15, EN10, GU21 or PR9 postcodes will be asked to get a test.
If they have symptoms – they can book online at their nearest facility.
If they don't, they should check their local council website for more information on whether there's an asymptomatic centre.
Mobile testing units will be deployed and testing kits posted through people's doors too, to try and clamp down on every single case.
Some of the new cases hadn't travelled recently either – meaning there is now community transmission of the virus.
The mutation, which emerged from South Africa, and is named 501YV2, but there is no evidence that it causes more severe disease.
Earlier today a minister said the 80,000 people in neighbourhoods where a clampdown on the mutant strain is underway should "think again" about leaving home at all – even to get food.
Brits living in areas hit by the South African variant of coronavirus have been urged to eat up tins and leftovers rather than go out food shopping.
Door-to-door testing has been rolled out in eight areas across the country after 105 cases were found, including 11 not linked to international travel.
Residents in eight English postcodes from Surrey to Merseyside are being urged to get swabbed over the next fortnight.
Mobile units have been scrambled, while council officials will knock on doors offering kits to locals.
Authorities are anxious to suppress any spread amid fears vaccination will prove less effective against the variant.
It is more contagious than the original, but there is no evidence it is deadlier.
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said the development was "deeply concerning" and urged people to stay at home.
She said there are no extra restrictions in those neighbourhoods because the whole country is already in lockdown, but that residents there should interpret the rules even more strictly.
She told them: "Think again before you go about activities, even those within the rules such as essential shopping.
"Do you really need to go for that shopping or have you got enough in? Could you work from home, have that extra conversation with your employer?"
Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Sage advisory group of scientists, said current jabs should be effective at fighting the new variant.
He said: "We would expect the vaccines to still be very worthwhile and very good at preventing severe disease.
And he warned there is "probably in the long term, 100%" chance of more variants reaching Britain as "the nature of this virus is that it will continue to mutate".
Professor Calum Semple, a fellow Sage member, said it was unrealistic to think the UK could completely close its borders.
He said: "You can't do it altogether when you have got a country that is dependent on imports for food and other essential processes. It is just not possible."
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