Surge testing expanded as extra instances of Delta variant present in UK

London, June 3

UK health authorities on Thursday added another region for surge testing following the identification of a “small number” of confirmed cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19 or the highly transmissible B1.617.2 mutation first identified in India.

The National Health Service (NHS) Test and Trace system launched additional testing and genomic sequencing at Gamesley Ward in the High Peak area of England’s Derbyshire county, in partnership with the local authorities. All the confirmed cases in the area have been instructed to self-isolate, and their contacts have been identified, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

“Everyone aged five and over who lives or works in this area is strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 PCR test from today, whether they are showing symptoms or not,” DHSC said.

“Enhanced contact tracing will be used for individuals testing positive with a variant of concern (VOC). This is where contact tracers look back over an extended period to determine the route of transmission,” it added.

Any PCR positive test results will be sent for genomic sequencing at specialist laboratories to help officials identify Covid-19 cases with a variant of concern and prevent its further spread. 

As part of the surge testing system, people are also being encouraged to use the free twice-weekly rapid tests, commonly known as lateral flow devices or LFDs, to be followed up with a PCR test.

Several regions across the UK are now covered by the surge testing protocol, including many councils of London, as part of efforts to contain the spread of the Delta variant.

It comes as official figures show that more than half of UK adults have now had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

“Now let’s finish the job. When it’s your turn, get the jab,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter in reference to the latest figures.

A total of 26,422,303 second doses have been given out since the vaccine rollout began nearly six months ago, something UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi described as “another important milestone”.

The government has committed to offer a first dose of a vaccine to all adults by the end of July, and both doses to everyone aged 50 and over by June 21 – the date marked for an end to all lockdown restrictions unless the Delta VOC spread delays that roadmap.

Meanwhile, the UK reviewed its traffic light system for international travel and has concluded that it isn’t safe to add additional countries to the safe green list for quarantine-free travel. 

In fact, Portugal which was on the green list, has been moved to amber – which requires travellers to home quarantine. 

Travel from red list countries remains banned for foreigners and comes with a compulsory hotel quarantine requirement for British residents. India remains on the red list alongside most of the Indian sub-continent countries, with Sri Lanka now also added to it. 

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said it was “a difficult decision” and that Portugal was downgraded because the government wants to give the UK “the best possible chance of unlocking domestically” as planned on June 21. — PTI

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