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Covid-19: Surge testing for South African variant detects no new cases in Hertfordshire

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The search for the South African variant of Covid-19 in Hertfordshire has so far failed to find any new cases.

Almost 10,000 people living in the EN10 postcode area of Broxbourne have been tested for coronavirus since February 2 after one resident was found to have the mutated virus.

Currently, 92 of the emergency tests in EN10 have been positive for Covid-19, but none has yet been found to have the South African variant, although further laboratory tests are ongoing and could take several more days.

director of public health Jim McManus. (44363935)
director of public health Jim McManus. (44363935)

Herts County Council is now winding up its surge testing programme in the area with an end to doorstep swabbing of those at risk and the closure of pick-up points for home-testing kits.

So far, Public Health England says there have been 170 cases of the South African variant – also known as 501.V2 or B.1.351 – identified nationwide, including 18 not linked to travel.

There is no evidence that the mutation causes more serious illness but there are concerns it can spread more easily and vaccines may not be as effective against it.

Covid testing site
Covid testing site

It is already the dominant variant in the Eastern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa and has been detected in at least 20 other countries including Austria, Norway and Japan.

Professor Jim McManus, director of public health for Hertfordshire County Council, said: "Our residents in the EN10 area of Broxbourne have been absolutely fantastic. They've helped bring infection rates down and they've proactively used the testing routes available to them.

"I would like to offer a personal 'thank you' to every single one of the thousands of people who have completed a Covid-19 test. You really have made a difference.

"We're still likely to see a further increase in the positive test results in EN10 but, so far, have not received any figures relating to the South African variant, which may still take time to process."

The latest infection rate for the whole of Hertfordshire was 207.5 per 100,000 population on February 4, down from 286.1 seven days before.

On February 2, there were 385 people in hospital in the county with Covid-19, an 18% decrease from 471 a week before.

In the week beginning January 29, there were 226 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, including 23 in East Herts.

There have been 7,721 cases in the district to date and of these 66 occurred in the last seven days. Because it takes time for tests to be processed, the figures are provisional. If the most recent five days are excluded, there have been 171 cases, or an incidence rate of 114.2 cases per 100,000 population.

Broxbourne residents who remain untested can book an appointment online at a drive-in or walk-through test site.

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