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Urgent testing for virus variant related to South Africa launched in parts of UK

LONDON, (The Southern African Times) – Urgent testing for coronavirus was launched Monday in parts of Britain amid concerns over community transmission of the virus variant related to South Africa.

Around 80,000 people live in the eight areas in England, including Surrey, London and Kent, are being targeted. Those over 16 years old are asked to take tests whether they have symptoms or not, according to the BBC.

The latest development came after 11 cases cannot be directly traced back to people who had travelled to South Africa, prompting fears there may be community transmission of the variant.

British 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,” he said. “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, the health secretary said at a virtual Downing Street news conference on Monday afternoon.

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,” he added.

A total of 105 cases of the variant related South Africa have been identified in Britain so far, Sky News reported.

Hancock doesn’t rule out further restrictions in the eight areas, the BBC reported.

Susan Hopkins, chief of COVID strategy at Public Health England, also urged people in these areas to come forward and take the test.

“We are trying to contain this so it does not spread,” she said.

Early study had suggested that the variant related to South Africa is more transmissible but there are signs it could make vaccines a little less effective, according to the BBC.

There is no evidence the variant causes more serious illness, like the variant first detected in Britain.

In a bid to reassure the public, the British Department for Health and Social Care said: “There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.”

Nearly 9 million people in Britain have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures.

Britain aims to deliver a first dose to 15 million of the most vulnerable by mid-February and to offer all adults their first dose by autumn.

England is currently under the third national lockdown since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country. Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines

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