COVID-19: CASES OF 'VARIANT OF CONCERN' CONFIRMED IN NOTTINGHAM
 

Jamie Barlow, Nottingham Post Digital News Correspondent, reported on Tuesday 11 May 2021 that targeted testing is taking place in the city centre and Radford after Public Health discovery of the so-called Indian variant of the coronavirus. An updated report by Jamie Barlow and Phoebe Ram, also a Nottingham Post Digital News Correspondent follows the original report.

Testing underway in Nottingham city centre and Radford for Covid-19 'variant of concern'

Some of the cases have been found in shared, private accommodation

Targeted testing for a strain of the coronavirus described as a 'variant of concern' will take place over the next fortnight in the city centre and Radford, it has been confirmed.

Public Health England bosses have found the variant, known as VOC-21APR-02, that was first identified in sequence in India.

Most of the cases of the strain are being followed-up individually by NHS Test and Trace teams.

Some of the cases have been found in shared, private accommodation in Nottingham. 

Nottingham City Council is working with partners from Public Health England and the NHS to carry out targeted testing in these shared buildings in the city centre and Radford over the next two weeks.

The testing is underway in larger accommodation blocks where cases have been found and residents have shared indoor access spaces, posing a higher risk for transmission. People in the relevant buildings are being informed directly.

David Johns, Interim Director of Public Health in Nottingham, said: “Public Health England often informs us of variants of Covid-19 and, given that the latest variant of concern is emerging around the country, I would urge people to stay safe and follow the Step Two guidance at this time, and take regular tests as we move towards unlocking our city at Step Three.

“In areas of the city where we know the variant is present we are carrying out further targeted testing.

"I would like to thank everyone who so far has come forward to take a test. We need everybody’s help with this.

"If you are asked to come forward for test, please work with our teams and get tested at the earliest opportunity.

“Targeted testing is part of the Government’s response to coronavirus variants of concern, allowing us to quickly identify any other cases in order to monitor the potential spread of the virus. 

"We are working closely with Public Health England and other partners to ensure this happens quickly and smoothly.”

It comes ahead of the lockdown restrictions easing further on May 17, when pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to reopen indoors.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at Public Health England, said the way to limit the spread of all variants is to social distance, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when inside and keep buildings well-ventilated.

She also urged people to meet others from different households outside.

"If you are told to get a test, if you have any symptoms at all or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, please make sure you get tested too," she said.

“We are monitoring all of these variants extremely closely and have taken the decision to classify this as a variant of concern because the indications are that this VOC-21APR-02 is a more transmissible variant.”

Cases of the variant have been found across the country. Not all cases are related to travel and some are thought to have been picked up via community transmission.

People are urged to take twice-weekly testing, even if they don’t have symptoms. 

There are many quick and easy ways to access a free rapid Covid-19 test when you don’t have symptoms such as from a local community site, collecting one at your local pharmacy or ordering online.

As the range of options increases, many of our community testing sites have moved to mobile units. This gives us greater flexibility to target different areas across the city.

For all the ways you can access a Covid-19 test when you don’t have symptoms please visit

www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/asymptomatictesting.

It comes after cases of the Indian variant were found in Leicester, and it was reported last month that all the infections were linked to people travelling to the city from India before the country was put on the Government’s red list on Friday, April 23.

Testing underway in Nottingham city centre and Radford for Covid-19 'variant of concern' - Nottinghamshire Live

What we know so far as Covid 'variant of concern' detected in Nottingham

Testing is underway across the city

An expert has said a coronavirus variant first detected in India likely arrived in Nottingham after being brought over by plane.

Public Health England bosses have found the variant, known as VOC-21APR-02, first identified in sequence in India.

In Government documents the lineage of the VOC-21APR-02 strain is outlined as being the B.1.617.2 mutation - which is one of three closely related offshoots of the original B.1.617 Indian variant.

Indications suggest it is more transmissible - and there are concerns it will spread quicker among people. 

This is what we know so far.

Where have cases been found?

Cases have been found across the country and some but not all of the cases have been found in shared, private accommodation in Nottingham.

It is understood that mass testing for the variant has been carried out in some student halls of residence in Nottingham and that the fire service has been involved in rolling this out.

Area Manager Damien West, said: “To help with the response to Covid-19, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has seconded employees over recent months to assist with the Lateral Flow Testing Sites.

"Personnel, including operational Crews, are now assisting with the targeted testing around Nottingham City Centre as part of a joint-approach with Partners. 

“The Service is extremely pleased to be able to work with Nottingham City Council and Public Health England around this targeted testing. We are committed to working with our partner agencies, especially during the fight against Covid-19, to keep our communities safe."

What experts said

Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading said it was his understanding the variant had come from India originally rather than mutating in this country.

"It is a descendant of the original India variant that people are familiar with," he said.

"We expect it has been here a few weeks, and arrived on a plane almost certainly.

"If it has arrived in halls of residence in Nottingham, we have to wonder if that is because someone brought it directly from India or someone passed it on, like a family member.

"In somewhere like halls, it can spread easily. It is a confined space and the population there is unlikely to have been vaccinated - maybe a handful with underlying conditions have.

"Residents tend to be younger and less likely to be seriously ill though, so there could be worse places for it to have arrived, like a care home."

Dr Clarke said there was the potential for it to spread through social activities, particularly given the reopening of indoor spaces next week.

"But the young get a bad deal and everyone was young once, they are not doing anything out of the ordinary," he said.

"I think we should be concerned but I don't like to say worry or panic. Just conscious of the risk and have our eyes open to the possibility.

"We should remember now that we are much less likely to encounter someone with the virus, but also that people are less likely to have symptoms.

"But the risk of passing it on, if you have it, is the same. But there relatively low numbers of cases at the moment."

Dr Clarke confirmed the dominant strain of Covid-19 was still the Kent variant and there was still limited information on this new strain.

What public health officials said

David Johns, interim director of Public Health in Nottingham, said: "Not all cases are related to travel and some are thought to have been picked up via community transmission.

“Most cases of the Variant of Concern are being followed-up individually by NHS Test and Trace teams.

“For most people, the Variant of Concern will simply mean being extra vigilant when we stick to the guidance around ‘hands, face, space’ in order to keep each other safe.

“Some but not all of the cases have been found in shared, private accommodation in Nottingham.

“I would like to thank everyone who so far has come forward to take a test. We need everybody’s help with this. If you are asked to come forward for test, please work with our teams and get tested at the earliest opportunity.”

People are urged to take twice-weekly testing, even if they don’t have symptoms.

How to limit the spread

There are many quick and easy ways to access a free rapid Covid-19 test when you don’t have symptoms such as from a local community site, collecting one at a local pharmacy or ordering online.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director at Public Health England, said the way to limit the spread of all variants is to social distance, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, cover your nose and mouth when inside and keep buildings well-ventilated.

She also urged people to meet others from different households outside.

"If you are told to get a test, if you have any symptoms at all or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, please make sure you get tested too," she said.

“We are monitoring all of these variants extremely closely and have taken the decision to classify this as a variant of concern because the indications are that this VOC-21APR-02 is a more transmissible variant.”

For all the ways you can access a Covid-19 test when you don’t have symptoms, visit:

www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/asymptomatictesting.

Cases of the Indian variant have been found in Leicester, with all the cases linked to people travelling to the city from India before the country was put on the Government’s red list on Friday, April 23.

What we know so far as Covid 'variant of concern' detected in Nottingham - Nottinghamshire Live