The Department of Health has revealed on Monday that the new South African variant has now been identified across eight English postcodes.
Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) are to be deployed across the eight postcodes and will offer a PCR test to everyone, including those who have no symptoms.
The Department of Health are strongly urging everyone over the age of 16-years old to be tested, and additional home test kits are being provided by the local authorities.
The postcodes affected are London (W7, N17, CR4), West Midlands (WS2), East of England (EN10), South East (ME15, GU21), North West (PR9).
Professor Rowland Kao, of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh, warned that due to limitation of testing, it is likely that more cases of the South African variant are in general circulation.
Professor Kao said, “The identification of cases of the SA variant in people with no obvious travel links [either travel themselves, or links to other known cases] suggest that, at the very least, they were infected while in the UK, i.e there is evidence of local transmission.
“As only 5% of cases are tested to determine if they are the variant, there is a high probability that further local cases are in circulation, making it more difficult at the spread of the variant can be contained.
“Surge testing, where all residents will be offered a PCR test via post, will aim therefore to identify variant clusters and extent of spread, but is highly dependent on individuals taking up those tests, as it remains a voluntary activity.
“As there is some evidence that current vaccines may be at least somewhat less effective against this variant, slowing its spread via surge testing and maintaining travel restrictions to prevent it jumping to other areas of the UK [if it has not done so already] will be important to keep COVID-19 infections continuing downwards at its current trajectory.”
So far there have been 105 confirmed cases across the UK of the new South African strain.
Ealing Council also announced at midday that they have detected the new variant in their area over the last few days.
The council said in a statement, “The council’s public health team was contacted by national test and trace officials and colleagues from Public Health England in the last few days to confirm that several areas in the UK had been identified as having the South African variant of COVID-19.
“And NHS Test and Trace has now confirmed that a person in the W7 postcode area was one of these small number of these cases.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director at Public Health England said, “The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world, which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in London.
“I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.”