Surge testing ordered in Hounslow amid growing concern over ‘Indian’ variant

Surge testing will take place in Hounslow amid a sharp spike in reported cases of the  B.1.617.2 ‘India variant’ of the Covid-19 virus.  The presence of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant has prompted fears that the UK’s easing of restrictions aimed to slow the spread of the virus could be delayed if too many people become infected.  Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs Wednesday (May 19) that 2,967 cases of the B1617.2 variant had been identified, up from the 2,323 declared on Monday.

The variant is already the dominant strain of Covid-19 in Bolton and Blackburn, while other areas including Hounslow have also been identified as areas of concern regarding the spread of  Consequently Hancock said an “extensive bio-security surveillance system” and new techniques had been used to identify further areas of concern. As a result, there will be surge testing and vaccinations in “Bedford, Burnley, Hounslow, Kirklees, Leicester and North Tyneside” the health secretary confirmed. 

Londoners: it’s crucial we continue to follow the rules to minimise the risk of new COVID variants spreading.

Important advice from @PHE_London‘s @ProfKevinFenton on how we ensure we stay on track and reopen our city safely. ?

— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) May 18, 2021

“What this means in practice is we are putting in place more testing and more testing sites. And on vaccinations, we are making more vaccinations available to everyone who is eligible,” Hancock said.  The latest developments came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Government was increasingly confident that vaccines will work against the Indian strain.

However he has been under pressure about the actions taken to prevent cases of coronavirus being brought in from India. Labour MPs including Leader Kier Starmer and Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth have both slammed the government’s approach to the India variant, suggesting not enough was done at UK borders to prevent positive cases arriving from India from infecting other people in the UK.  Ashworth told Sky News: “Our borders have been about as secure as a sieve throughout this crisis and it’s why we are seeing these variants bounce at us.”

And at Prime Minister’s Questions, Starmer said: “Flights are still coming in from India and even as the variant is spreading, the Prime Minister decides now is the time to weaken the system even more.

It is ridiculous.” 

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