Calls for South Africa variant testing to be extended to Suffolk
- Credit: Archant
Calls have been made to extend surge testing to Suffolk after cases of the South African coronavirus variant were confirmed in south Norfolk.
Testing is set to begin in Diss and Roydon on Friday after cases of the variant were confirmed there by health officials on Tuesday.
Dr Louise Smith, director of public health in Norfolk, said that between five to 10 cases of the variant have been confirmed in the area.
She had said all those cases were linked to people who had travelled to or from South Africa.
All adults in Diss and Roydon, even those without symptoms, will be asked to take a test to reduce the spread of the variant and help scientists learn more about it.
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Those who test positive will be asked to isolate.
However, the testing will not be conducted in other areas of the IP22 postcode, including in towns and villages just miles across the border in Suffolk.
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Now, Dr Dan Poulter, MP for the Central Suffolk and North Ipswich constituency which borders the affected areas in Norfolk, said that the proximity of the cases to Suffolk and the likelihood of residents travelling for work or shopping should mean that some Suffolk residents are tested too.
“As many people living in north Suffolk work and shop in Diss, it is important that surge testing is also made available to residents in Suffolk - particularly people living in Oakley, Eye, Palgrave and Yaxley," said Dr Poulter.
“We are making great progress in vaccinating people against Covid-19 and early data suggests that rates in our area are falling, but we must not let down our guard and continue to obey lockdown rules.
"The spread of these new variants is concerning, but current evidence seems to suggest that vaccines remain effective, albeit to a lesser extent in protecting people.
"The best way out of this pandemic is through vaccination and I would urge everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Councillor Matthew Hicks, chair of the Local Outbreak Engagement Board, said: “Following the announcement that surge testing will take place in Norfolk, we can confirm that no areas of Suffolk are involved.
“However, it is possible that people living in Suffolk who work in those areas of Norfolk, may be asked to get tested. We are working closely with our Norfolk colleagues and have systems in place to identify and support any Suffolk residents that may test positive as part of this process.
“The rollout of any surge testing is a national policy decision and we will continue to liaise with Public Health England and the national testing team as needed. Plans are already being drawn up should surge testing be required anywhere in Suffolk.”
As well as Norfolk, similar surge testing is also set to be rolled out in parts of Southampton and Woking in Surrey.
Work is also being carried out to track down a new Kent variant in parts of Manchester.