South African Covid strain found in Middlesbrough as locals are told to be tested urgently
THE South African coronavirus variant has been found in Middlesbrough – with locals told to get a test urgently.
A positive case of the strain has been linked to the Marton and Coulby Newham areas of the town, health authorities announced this evening.
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The positive case has no link to international travel.
Middlesbrough Council has now set up enhanced coronavirus testing in the town which is set to begin tomorrow.
Anyone over the age of 16 living in affected areas is urged to get a test, and can do so at a test centre at the Parkway Centre in Coulby Newham.
So far, there have been just 202 confirmed cases of the new variant in the UK so far.
While there is no evidence that the strain causes more severe illness, health experts fear it could impact the efficacy of vaccines – though this has not yet been confirmed.
Fifteen other areas of the UK have deployed surge testing following the discovery of new Covid variants.
Yesterday, health authorities in Stafford announced that a positive case of the South Africa variant had been picked up in a routine lab screening.
And Brits in areas of Lambeth in south London as well as parts of Worcestershire, Manchester, Kent and Surrey have all been offered tests when cases of new strains have been identified.
The variant was first found in the country in December and experts have warned that it could be at least 50 per cent more contagious.
South Africa, where the strain is dominant, last week cancelled its rollout of the Oxford vaccine following a study that suggested the jab has little effect on mild disease caused by the variant.
But scientists have insisted that the Oxford jab is still likely to prevent serious disease and hospitalisation in vulnerable groups.
The mutation, named 501YV2, allows the virus to bind to human cells quickly and infect them more easily.
Speaking at a Downing Street briefing on Monday, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam assured Brits that it was unlikely that the strain would become dominant in the UK.
He said that the South Africa variant was not more easily spread than the Kent variant, adding: "It's not going to over-run or overtake [the other virus] in the next few months.
"I don't think that this is something we should be concerned about right at this point at this time."
According to Public Health England data, Middlesbrough currently has the fifth-highest infection rate in England.
As of February 8, the rate per 100,000 people stood at 357.5, down slightly from 359.6 the week before.
Esther Mireku, Consultant in Public Health at Middlesborough Council, said: “I urge everyone over the age of 16 in the Marton and Coulby Newham areas to come forward for a test. This will help us understand more about the potential spread of this new variant.
“While the overall Covid infection rate in Middlesbrough has now halved from its peak in early January, it has still not decreased as much as we would have liked.
“The high prevalence of Covid in the town, combined with the reporting of this variant, are a reminder to everyone of the importance of staying at home as much as possible and following hands-face-space when out for an essential reason.”
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