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Surge testing in two more London areas after cases of South African variant found

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Surge testing will be carried out in two more areas of London after cases of the South African Covid-19 variant were discovered.

Everyone living in the SE5 postcode in Southwark and parts of Harrow with HA2 and HA3 postcodes are being encouraged to get a test when offered, even if they are not showing symptoms. 

Anyone who tests positive for the variant will go through enhanced contact tracing, the Department of Health said.

Scientists fear the strain, which is thought to be 1.5 times more transmissible, could be more resistant to existing Covid vaccines. 

The Department of Health said in a statement: “Further targeted areas will have additional testing made available to control and suppress the potential spread of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa.

“Working in partnership with the local authority, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to a highly targeted area within Southwark (SE5) and in parts of Harrow (HA2 and HA3), where the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.

“The increased testing is being introduced in addition to existing extensive testing and, in combination with the public following current lockdown rules and Hands Face Space advice, will help to monitor and suppress the spread of the virus.”

It came as pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca insisted that its Covid vaccine was safe, after concern around blood clots prompted Ireland to become the latest European country to suspend use of the jabs.

A review of available safety data in more than 17 million people who have been vaccinated across the UK and EU has shown no evidence of an increased risk, the pharmaceutical giant said.

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