Surge testing is being rolled out in more parts of England after new cases of the Brazilian and South African Covid-19 variants have been identified.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed that one case of the Brazilian variant was found in the West Midlands while another was identified in Haringey, in north London.
The news comes as a case of the South African variant was also found in the West Midlands, in the Sandwell area.
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Contacts being traced
The case in the West Midlands was identified following a person’s arrival at Birmingham Airport, where they were tested and quarantined as part of the managed hotel quarantine process.
The London case was picked up through surge testing, which is now being rolled out in the affected area, the DHSC has confirmed.
Contact tracing teams have also undertaken a comprehensive investigation to identify any further contacts.
In the Sandwell area, which is part of the DY4 postcode, including the Burnt Tree area, will also have additional testing made available “to control and suppress the potential spread” of the South African variant.
Sandwell Council said robust contact tracing had identified the patient’s contacts, who have been asked to self-isolate.
Additionally, genomic sequencing is being deployed to the targeted area, which takes in part of Tipton and Oldbury. And positive cases that are detected will be sequences for genomic data to help increase the understanding of the Covid-19 variants in these areas.
Concerns have been raised that the P1 strain of the virus, first detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus, could be more contagious than the current dominant strain, and it is not clear how it responds to vaccines.
These latest cases bring the total number of P1 variant cases in England up to nine, while there are three in Scotland.
People living within the affected locations are strongly encouraged to take a coronavirus test when they are offered one, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms or not.
A mobile testing unit is being set up at the PureGym car park in Dudley Port, offering its service to people without symptoms.
The council is urging people aged 16 and over without symptoms within specific streets in the Oldbury and Tipton border area to take a PCR Covid-19 swab test.
The mobile testing unit will open from 10am-3pm on Wednesday (17 March) for walk-in tests and booked drive-in tests.
Dr Lisa McNally, Sandwell’s director of public health, added: “The more cases of the variant we can find, the better chance we have of suppressing it.
“If you are asked to be tested please, please do take up the offer, it’s quick, easy and painless and you’ll be saving lives by doing so.
“Please help to keep your community safe by getting tested so we can protect you and your loved ones.”