Urgent testing after the South African variant found in Surrey
Testing has begun in parts of England after the South African variant of coronavirus were found with no known links to travel or previous cases.
Two cases were found in Surrey and testing will also take place in London, Kent, Hertfordshire and Walsall.
Previous cases in the UK were traced back to South Africa.
Cases caused by the variant were identified as part of PHE’s random checks on tests.
They have begun testing 5% of all positive cases, which has produced a number of cases that were not directly linked to people who had travelled to South Africa, prompting fears there may be community transmission of the virus.
It is not known how many cases have been identified.
In an urgent move, the government has ordered mobile testing units to be dispatched to a number of neighbourhoods where these cases have been identified.
In the town of Woking, home testing kits will also be sent to households.
Positive cases will be analysed to see if they are caused by the SA variant.
Meanwhile, PM Boris Johnson has played down fears about vaccines being ineffective against the variants that are circulating.
“We are confident that all the vaccines that we are using provide a high degree of immunity and protection against all variants.”
He said the vaccines could be adapted to deal with new variants if necessary.
“The fact is we are going to be living with Covid for a while to come in one way or another, I don’t think it will be as bad as the last 12 months – or anything like – of course, but it’s very, very important that our vaccines continue to develop and to adapt, and they will,” he said.
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