18 February 2021

More surge testing ordered after South African Covid variant found in Leeds

18 February 2021

More surge testing is being introduced in England after a further discovery of the South African variant of Covid-19.

The mutation has been found in Leeds, prompting the Department of Health (DH) to announce additional testing and genomic sequencing in a bid to detect cases and control the spread.

It is the latest area of the country to have targeted testing set up.

People in the LS8 postcode, including parts of Harehills and the area just north of Easterly Road where the variant was found, are being “strongly encouraged” to take a test when offered, whether or not they have symptoms.

Earlier this week the department said targeted testing regimes would be set up in parts of Norfolk, Southampton and Woking in Surrey.

Efforts in Manchester to track down examples of the more transmissible Kent variant were also being expanded following deployment of testing teams last week.

A spokeswoman for the department said: “Extra testing is being introduced in addition to existing extensive testing, and in combination with following the current lockdown rules and remembering Hands Face Space advice, will help to monitor and suppress the spread of the virus.

“Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help understand Covid-19 variants and their spread within these areas.”

Public Health England has said sequencing of positive PCR tests – swabs that are processed in a laboratory – can take around two weeks.

A DH spokeswoman said data from areas where surge testing has been completed or is nearing completion is “due to be provided in due course”.

The latest figures show 1,295,051 PCR tests were conducted in England in the week to February 10.

HEALTH Coronavirus (PA Graphics)

At the same time there has been a huge spike in the number of rapid turnaround lateral flow device (LFD) tests.

A record 2,400,724 LFD tests were conducted in England in the week to February 10, according to the latest NHS Test and Trace figures.

It is the second successive week in which more LFD tests were conducted than PCR tests.

The rapid tests give results in 30 minutes or less without the need for processing in a laboratory, and are being used as a fast way to test people who do not have symptoms.

Around one in three people with the virus do not display symptoms and the Government has described lateral flow tests as “ideal for widespread use in the community”.

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