Suffolk surge testing teams poised if South Africa Covid strain found
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Surge testing squads are on standby in Suffolk if a strain of the Covid-19 variant from South Africa is found in the county.
This week, surge testing began in Diss and Roydon on the Suffolk/Norfolk border amid concerns the South Africa variant had been found there.
Surge testing is an increased form of testing in specific communities, which involves door-to-door testing where needed, to scope out who may have been infected by the virus and contain its spread as quickly as possible.
The government has this week approved Suffolk's community testing programme, which can see testing teams hit the doorsteps in around five days from getting the call.
Addressing Friday's gathering of community leaders at Suffolk's local outbreak engagement board, health bosses said it was poised to rollout its plan if it was found to be needed.
Richard Cracknell, from Suffolk County Council, said: "Surge testing involves increased amount of testing and enhanced contact tracing.
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"The government are using surge testing and genomic sequencing to monitor and suppress coronavirus spread and better understand the new variants.
"We know that there is surge testing activity happening in Norfolk."
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If called upon by Public Health England to deploy surge testing measures, all over-16s in a specific community will be offered tests over a two-week period, regardless of whether they display symptoms.
Letters will be quickly deployed to those homes, mobile testing sites established, home testing kits issued and identification for anyone needing additional support carried out.
Positive results are returned within 48 hours, with ramped up contact tracing efforts for those found to have tested positive.
According to the Suffolk team, feedback from work in Norfolk is already being collated.
Senior communications officer Ben Matthews said: "The first stage of getting prepared is crucial to giving us the best chance to hit the ground running as soon as we get that call, because the turnaround time could be potentially very short, and this is the work we are doing right now."
Dr Padmanabhan Badrinath, public health consultant at Suffolk County Council, said the chief concern of a new variant was whether it responded differently to vaccines in circulation.
"There is not a huge increase in the risk of death or serious disease in the new variant," he said.
"What we are more concerned about is virility with the vaccination programme, so will it make our vaccination programme less effective?"