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‘Vital’ people in areas with cases of South African variant minimise all social contact

Written by on 01/02/2021

It is “absolutely vital” that people in areas of England where the South African variant of coronavirus has been identified minimise all social contact, the health secretary has said.

Speaking at the Downing Street news conference, Matt Hancock said the emergence of the COVID-19 variant was a “stark reminder the fight against this virus is not over yet” and that now was “no time to let things slip”.

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“There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is any more severe,” he said.

“But we need to come down hard on it and we will.”

A total of 105 cases of the South African variant have been identified in the UK so far, with 11 of them not appearing to have links to international travel.

Household testing will be rolled out across a number of areas due to concerns that the variant could be spreading in some regions. The government said the “surge testing” scheme will begin in:

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  • London – W7 (Ealing), N17 (Haringey) and CR4 (Croydon)
  • West Midlands – WS2 (Walsall)
  • East of England – EN10 (Broxbourne)
  • South East – ME15 (Maidstone) and GU21 (Guildford)
  • North West – PR9 (Preston)

Mr Hancock said it was “imperative” that people in these areas stay at home and take a test when it is offered to them, even if they have no symptoms.

“The most important thing is that people in the postcode areas outlined need to take extra special precautions,” the health secretary said.

“It is absolutely vital that people in those areas minimise all social contact and get a test when the opportunity arises.

Mr Hancock added that “finding every single case” of the variant was the government’s aim.

He did not explicitly rule out the prospect of tougher measures in areas with cases of the variant, saying “we’re always looking at what we need to do” and “further measures are always there”.

But the health secretary added: “We already have this very strong set of rules, indeed very strong laws in place, against people travelling unnecessarily, unless that travel is essential.

“So what I’d say is that if you’re in one of the postcode areas I’ve set out, if you’re in an area where the new variant has been found, then stay at home and let’s get this new variant totally under control.”

Dr Susan Hopkins from Public Health England said trials had shown that three coronavirus vaccines are effective against the South African variant.

“We expect all other vaccines to have a similar level of effectiveness, particularly in reducing hospitalisation and death,” she said.

She added that further testing was being carried out so that such predictions could be made with “greater robustness”.

 Sky News

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