COVID-19: Surge testing deployed in more parts of Birmingham after case of South African variant discovered

·2-min read

Surge testing is being deployed in parts of Birmingham after a case of the South African variant was discovered.

Areas of Alum Rock and Glebe Farm & Tile Cross have been targeted for testing and all those in the affected places are being told to come forward for a test.

The person who tested positive for the variant has gone into self-isolation and their contacts have been identified, according to the Department of Health.

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Last week, surge testing was introduced in the city's Ladywood, Jewellery Quarter and Soho ward after a single case of the variant was found there.

Health officials said initial investigations suggest the new case is "not linked to a case previously identified in the Birmingham and Sandwell areas".

Anybody aged 16 or over from the new areas who is contacted is being "strongly encouraged" to take a PCR test whether they have symptoms or not.

Those who test positive for a variant will have enhanced contact tracing, looking back over an extended period of time to help understand how the virus was transmitted.

People are still being advised to have twice-weekly rapid tests alongside the PCR test as part of surge testing.

Speaking when the first case was identified last week, Birmingham's public health director Dr Justin Varney said: "This new variant from South Africa presents a new risk so it is essential that all adults in the affected areas take up this offer of PCR testing to help us contain the spread quickly and identify any further local cases.

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"There is financial and practical support available for those who test positive and have to isolate, and their contacts, and it is vital we all play our part in controlling this new challenge."

Experts believe the South African variant may be able to get around some of the protection offered by our current vaccines, although they should still be able to prevent severe illness.

Last week, the largest surge testing operation to date was rolled out in parts of London after a cluster of cases of the variant was found there.

More than 70 confirmed or probable cases were found in the boroughs of Lambeth and Wandsworth, prompting officials to organise mass testing for the areas.