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Surge testing rolled out in more London boroughs over new South Africa Covid cases

City AM logoCity AM 02/03/2021 Poppy Wood
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The London boroughs of Barnet and Merton have become the latest regions in the capital to receive surge testing, after officials identified new cases of the South Africa Covid variant.

Residents in the N2 and NW4 regions of Barnet, as well as the Wimbledon Park area in Merton, are strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week whether they are showing symptoms or not, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said in a statement.

Read more: UK rolls out ‘vaccination status’ requirement for some international arrivals as ministers mull vaccine passports

The Vaccines Taskforce will also launch door-to-door testing and enhanced contact tracing in the affected areas.

Other London regions including Lambeth and Croydon, along with parts of Essex, Norfolk and Surrey, are still undergoing surge testing as ministers scramble to fend off cases of “variants of concern”.

The South Africa strain of coronavirus includes the E484K spike protein mutation, which is thought to be partially resistant to available vaccines. 

So far, Public Health England has identified 105 cases of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa in late December, with 11 of those cases having no links to international travel.

It comes as a nationwide manhunt for a missing case of the new Brazil variant was today narrowed down to 379 households in the south east of England.

In total six cases of the new strain, also known as the P1 variant or Manaus variant, have been identified across England and Scotland.

One case has still yet to be tracked down, after the individual in question failed to fill out their contact details on their test registration card — thought to have been completed via a home test kit.

Surge testing has been rolled out in parts of south Gloucestershire to try and identify the missing case.

Matt Hancock told the House of Commons this afternoon that officials have now “identified the batch of home test kits in question”.

Read more: Almost 20.5m Brits have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine

“Our search has narrowed from the whole country down to 379 households in the southeast of England and we’re contacting each one,” he added. “We’re grateful that a number of potential cases have come forward following the call that we put out over the weekend.”

Scientists are concerned that the new strain could be more transmissible and prove more resistant to available vaccines than other coronavirus variants.

Preliminary studies of the new strain in Brazil showed that it may be between 1.4 to 2.2 times more transmissible than previous versions of coronavirus circulating in Manaus, the Amazon city where it originated.

It is also able to evade between 25 per cent and 61 per cent of protective immunity from previous infection, according researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Sao Paulo.

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