Discovery of South African variant in Southport caused ‘shock and concern’

The emergence of the South African variant of coronavirus in a seaside town caused “shock, concern and confusion”, a councillor has said as testing of 10,000 residents gets under way.

Wednesday, 3rd February 2021, 5:35 pm

Mobile testing units were set up in Southport, Merseyside, on Wednesday and deliveries of home testing kits were due to begin to try to trace any more cases of the variant.

Councillor Greg Myers said one case of the South African strain had been found in the town’s Norwood ward.

He said: “When people first heard the South African variant of Covid was here, there was shock, concern, confusion.”

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Members of the public queue outside a Covid-19 testing centre at Splash World in Southport

The dedicated testing units were opened on a car park in the town at 8am on Wednesday and by midday around 200 residents had used the facility.

Mr Myers told the PA news agency: “It’s very calm, people are reacting very well, there’s no sort of hysteria or anything like that.

“It’s all very measured and people are very grateful that the facility is here.”

He urged people to stick to the guidelines.

“What I would say is, if before the idea was that you thought twice before making any journeys to make sure they were essential, well, think three times and make absolutely certain,” he said.

Mr Myers was set to join colleagues, volunteers and fire service staff to deliver testing kits door-to-door later on Wednesday.

The tests will provide results showing whether someone is positive for coronavirus in about two days and analysis of swabs to identify the presence of the South African variant will take up to 10 days, a spokesman for Sefton Council said.

Director of public health for Sefton Margaret Jones said: “Having been told that the variant had been identified in the borough late on Saturday, I am pleased that we have been able to get this testing for the area up and running today.

“It is a real testament to the way everyone has worked to make this programme work.

“We want everyone aged 16 and over in the affected area to take one of these specific tests, either using the home test kit that will be delivered to them or by using the dedicated mobile unit at the former Kew Park and Ride site.

“This will help us identify and nip this variant, which could be more transmissible, meaning that it could spread more quickly, in the bud.”

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