As of 30 January, a total of 105 cases attributed to the South African variant have so far been confirmed across the UK. Eleven of those have found to not actually be linked to people who had travelled to South Africa, which could suggest community transmission.
These cases have been detected in multiple parts of England including Hanwell, Tottenham and Mitcham in London; Broxbourne, Hertfordshire; Walsall in the West Midlands; Maidstone, Kent; Southport, Merseyside; and in Woking and Egham, Surrey. The affected areas in Surrey were, more specifically, two cases in the Goldsworth Park and St Johns area in Woking and so far, only one in Egham confirmed as the South African variant. In response to this a major operation will commence with the aim of testing thousands of people in the affected part of Woking, with an announcement about Egham expected in the coming days.
Door-to-door COVID-19 testing is being rolled out across some of the areas found to be affected by the South African variant. This is all in an attempt to keep track of the new strain and hopefully isolate it as soon as possible. Health officials will work alongside local police, councillors and firefighters to help with the testing.
Director of Public Health for Surrey Ruth Hutchinson said:
“This is a precautionary measure – the more cases of the variant we find, the better chance we have at stopping it from spreading further….by playing your part and taking the test, you’ll be helping to keep your community and your loved ones safe.”
Residents in areas where the tests are being carried out, including those in Surrey, will have door-to-door visits where they will be requested to carry out a COVID-19 PCR test whether or not they have symptoms. PHE and NHS Test and Trace will be working with the test results to help isolate the spread of the new strain.
The variant is still being studied in laboratories and the situation is said to be closely monitored but people are advised to keep following the national guidelines by keeping up with good hand hygiene as well as staying at home unless absolutely necessary. Residents and people currently residing in the affected areas are only required to self-isolate if they show any COVID-19 symptoms, which can be found on the official NHS website, have received a positive test or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive and/or have been contacted by Test and Trace. People in the affected areas are also still allowed to, and should, attend their vaccination appointments unless they have any of the things listed previously or they have been told otherwise. At the moment there are also no suggestions that the new South African COVID-19 variant is more harmful than the other strains and nothing suggests that the vaccine will be less effective or offer less protection.
For more information and the speech by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the Director of Public Health in Surrey Ruth Hutchinson on door-to-door testing check out the following links:
Image credit: Woking Council