A case of the South African variant of coronavirus has been identified in the village of Bramley, near Basingstoke in Hampshire, leading to surge testing in the area next week.
Simon Bryant, the director of public health at Hampshire county council, said while the news might be alarming, the risk of transmission from the single case was “considered to be very low”.
“I appreciate that this news may be worrying for the local community, but it’s really important to understand that the risk of transmission from this single case is considered to be very low, helped by the fact that national restrictions are in place, with most people staying at home and adhering to the government guidance of ‘hands, face, space’,” he said.
“Furthermore, there is no evidence that this particular variant causes more severe illness, or that the regulated vaccines do not protect against it.”
Surge testing – targeted testing programmes where cases of new variants have been detected – will be be rolled out next week, with residents over the age of 16 eligible for the programme.
Bryant said this was “primarily a precautionary measure designed to help the government to better understand and prevent the spread of new variants across the country.”
Surge testing and genomic sequencing will also be carried out in the TS7 postcode in Middlesbrough and parts of Walsall.
The operation in Walsall was extended after a second confirmed case of the South African variant was recorded, and was not believed to be connected to international travel.
In Middlesbrough, a testing centre has been set up at Parkway Centre in Coulby Newham for residents of Marton and Coulby Newham who are over 16. Residents do not need to book a test.
According to Public Health England data, analysed by PA news agency, Middlesbrough has the fifth highest infection rate in England at present. On 8 February, an average of 357.5 people out of every 100,000 had coronavirus, slight decrease of from 359.6 the week before.
Surge testing has been rolled out across a number of areas across England including parts of Worcestershire, Manchester, Kent and Surrey, and Lambeth in south London.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, surge testing in the Egham and Broxbourne areas, which began on 6 February and 1 February, is now complete.