UK launches urgent testing for S.African Covid variant

London, Feb 2 : The UK has launched urgent testing for the coronavirus variant initially detected in South Africa amid concerns over community transmission of the strain.

The testing will be carried out across eight areas in England, including Surrey, London and Kent, where around 80,000 people reside, Xinhua news agency reported,

Those over 16 years old are asked to take tests whether they have symptoms or not, according to a BBC report.

So far, a total of 105 cases of the variant, called B.1.351, have been identified in Britain.

The latest development came after the detection of 11 cases of the variant which could not be directly traced back to people who had travelled to South Africa, prompting fears that there might be a community transmission.

At a virtual Downing Street news conference on Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "It is vital that we do all we can to stop transmission of this variant and I strongly urge everyone in these areas to get tested, whether you have symptoms or not.

"The best way to stop the spread of the virus, including new variants, is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place.

"Until more people are vaccinated this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus."

It is "absolutely vital" that people in these eight areas of England minimise all social contact, he noted.

The emergence of the new variant was a "stark reminder the fight against this virus is not over yet" and that now ws "no time to let things slip", the Health Secretary added.

Meanwhile, there was still no evidence that the South African variant causes more serious illness, like the B.1.1.7 strain which was originally detected late last year in Britain.

As of Tuesday morning, the UK's overall coronavirus caseload has increased to 3,846,851, the fourth highest in the world after the US, India and Brazil.

The death toll stood at 106,774, the fifth largest following the US, Brazil, India and Mexico.



Source: IANS