COVID-19: Surge testing expanded to more parts of England in search for South African variant cases

·2-min read

Surge testing is being expanded to more areas of England in an attempt to track down cases of the coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa.

People are being urged to take a coronavirus test if they live in the following areas:

• GU22 - Woking, Surrey

• SO15 - Southampton

• IP22 - Norfolk

• M40, M9 - Manchester

Cases of the South African variant have been discovered in Woking, Southampton, and Norfolk, prompting the mass testing regimes.

This variant is thought to be able to spread more easily and it also carries a mutation known as E484K, which is believed to be more efficient at evading the vaccines.

However there is no evidence it causes more serious illness.

A total of 217 confirmed or probable cases of the South African variant have been discovered in England, a rise of 15 since the last update on 11 February, according to Public Health England.

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Last week, a new version of the Kent variant which carried the E484K mutation was discovered in Manchester, prompting local authorities to roll out further mass testing.

Around 10,000 extra tests were rolled out in parts of the city after four people from two unconnected households were found to be carrying the E484K mutation.

Efforts to find cases are now being expanded to the postcodes of M40 and M9.

Anyone living in the affected areas should take a COVID-19 test this week even if they are not showing symptoms, a Department of Health spokesperson has said.

People with symptoms should book a test in the "usual way" through the government website, while those without symptoms should visit their local authority website for more information.

Surge testing that was earlier announced for the London boroughs of Haringey and Merton, as well as Sefton in Merseyside, has been completed.