Coronavirus variants of concern scattered across UK – why it could be dangerous

Indian coronavirus variant 'under analysis' says Harries

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Variants of concern raise three questions: does the mutated Covid strain spread more easily between people? Can it evade previous immunity, either from infection or antibodies? And is the virus now more deadly? Additional surge testing and genomic sequencing has been deployed in Ruislip, West London. The Department of Health and Social Care said they are working in partnership with Hillingdon Council to implement targeted testing in the HA4 postcode.

This follows the identification of a single case of the South Africa variant of concern (B.1.351) in that area.

“The confirmed case has completed self-isolation and their contacts have been identified,” the Government said.

Everyone aged 16 and over who works or resides in the area are urged to take a Covid PCR test – whether they’re showing symptoms or not.

The free NHS PCR test, which involves the sample being sent off to a laboratory, is available on the NHS website.

Between Monday, May 10 and Sunday, May 23, Hillingdon Council will be offering additional PCR testing for people without symptoms in the area.

This testing will be available at South Ruislip Young People’s Centre, Victoria Road, HA4 0JE.

Surge testing will also be available at Haste Hill Golf Course, The Drive, Northwood, HA6 1HN, daily between 8am and 8pm.

Attendees are required to book an appointment in advance on the local authority website.

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People in the area are also encouraged to continue using twice-weekly rapid testing alongside the PCR test.

Enhanced contact tracing will be used for individuals testing positive for a variant of concern.

Surge testing is one arm of the strategy against Covid, helping to ensure variants of concern don’t spread like wildfire.

Bolton, in Greater Manchester, is also an area where additional testing and sequencing is taking place.

The BL3 postcode is under investigation after “a small number of cases” of the South African variant was identified.

In addition, a cluster of the Indian variant (B.1.617.2) has also been picked up in Bolton.

A public health assessment has recorded a rise in transmission of the Indian variant of concern.

Contact tracing is being implemented to determine the route of transmission.

The Indian variant of concern

The coronavirus B.1.617.2 mutation may be just as transmissible as the B.1.1.7 variant that was first identified in Kent, which went on to dominate the UK.

Covid mutants that are more transmissible could spread more easily, meaning more people are infected at the same time.

This could cause hospital beds to fill up quickly, and can transcend into the NHS feeling overwhelmed again.

However, Covid vaccinations are helping protect people from severe disease from the virus.

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