Targeted testing to be deployed to control spread of Covid-19 variant in parts of SO15

Extensive surveillance of Covid-19 has identified a case of the South African variant in the SO15 5 area of Southampton

Extensive surveillance of Covid-19 has identified a small number of cases of the South African variant in localities across England, including one in the SO15 5 area of Southampton, that cannot be traced back to international travel. The case identified has self-isolated and full contact tracing has taken place.

SO15 5 postcodes map

Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, Southampton City Council is asking every person aged 16 or over living in the SO15 5 postcode area to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test this week, via a SCC-led targeted testing exercise, even if they are not showing symptoms. The PCR test involves taking a swab of the throat and nose.

As part of the exercise, a Mobile Testing Unit (MTU) will be deployed offering PCR testing, and the council and its partners will also issue and collect home test kits to some properties. A letter will be delivered to the home test households on Wednesday 17 February and the council is aiming to deliver the testing kits on Thursday 18 February. Anyone who receives a home testing kit should follow the instructions given to them with that kit.

Anyone who lives in the SO15 5 postcode area but does not receive a letter and home testing kit should visit the mobile testing unit at Atherley Bowling Club, Hill Lane SO15 5DB. The MPU will be open from Thursday 18 February to Saturday 20 February (09.00-17.30). The location of the MTU is shown on the map and on the council’s website.

The aim of the targeted testing exercise is to help better understand and prevent the spread of new variants. The risk of transmission from a single South-African variant case is considered to be very low. There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccines will not protect against it.

Testing will, in combination with measures such as hands-face-space and lockdown measures, help to suppress and control the spread of Covid-19, while enabling a better understanding of the new variant.

Positive tests will be sequenced to identify any further spread of the new variant first discovered in South Africa, enabling a better understanding of the variant and identifying if there are any more cases of this particular strand of the virus in the area. If someone tests positive, they must self-isolate immediately and pass on details of their contacts to NHS Test and Trace.

Dr Debbie Chase, Director of Public Health at Southampton City Council said:

"Contact tracing of the individual has taken place and I would like to reassure people that there is no cause for alarm. However, it is important that people aged 16 or over in the identified area take a Covid-19 test as directed. While essential travel to work, school, and shopping can still take place in line with government guidance, I would urge everyone in the identified area, and indeed across the city, to stay at home where possible, limit your contact with others, and follow the hands, face, space guidance.”

Councillor Hammond, Leader of Southampton City Council said:

“I understand that this may be a cause for concern, but the city has responded amazingly to the pandemic and we now need to call on the support of residents in the identified postcode area to step up once more. This programme of targeted testing will help our health experts understand more about the spread of the South African variant and hopefully help us get out of lockdown measures as soon as possible.”

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor for NHS Test and Trace said:

“As part of our proactive sequencing work, we know that the new variant of Covid-19, first detected in South Africa, has been identified in a number of areas across England. A small proportion of these cases have no link to international travel suggesting that there are some cases in the community.

“In response to this, we are ramping up testing in targeted areas, so we can gather more information and effectively monitor any further community transmission.”

Dr Alison Barnett, Regional Director at Public Health England South East said:

“The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in Southampton. I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.

“The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place – limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus."

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