Covid-19: Government announce surge testing and vaccine acceleration in Kirklees following rise in Indian variant

Mass testing and vaccine acceleration is to take place in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, the Government has announced following an increase in the new Indian variant of Covid-19.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, North Tyneside and Hounslow will all have surge testing and increasing vaccinations, in a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday.

Mr Hancock said: “We’re seeing other cases where rates are rising and where we need to act fast as we have in Bolton and Blackburn.

“We’ve used our extensive surveillance system and new techniques to identify the areas we are most concerned about. We look at the number of cases, we look at the number of identified variants, and we look at hospitalizations, but we’re now also able to use two further tools,

Health Secretary Matt Hancock during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Covid-19 on Wednesday May 19, 2021.

“Mobility data shows travel patterns in different areas, and we look at this in deciding where the virus is at risk of spreading.

"We also analyse wastewater in 70 per cent of the country and we can spot the virus and the variants in the water, and that can help us identify communities where there’s spread.

"As a result of all this analysis we are now surge testing and increasing vaccinations in Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Kirklees North Tyneside and Hounslow in London.”

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She said: “As we’ve been reporting in recent weeks, our infection rate is one of the highest in the country and is rising.

"We’re already doing a lot to try to bring our infection rate down. Currently, council staff are out in the community talking to local people and businesses every day about how they can play their part to reduce the spread of the infection.

"We are delivering community testing for thousands of residents each week and our local contact tracing is helping to contain the spread. We are also working with our partners in the NHS to arrange pop-up vaccination clinics – including in harder to reach communities and workforces most at risk. Our Community Champions are making sure everyone has the right advice and access to their vaccination. In line with restrictions lifting, we’re working closely to support businesses and venues to reopen safely. We’re also carrying out PCR testing on close contacts of those who tested positive for Indian variant recently."

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Van-Tam revealed scientists will know more about the transmissibility of the new Indian variant by next week.

He said: “I think scientists are sure that this virus is more transmissible than the strain that it is beginning to replace, which is the old Kent B.117 strain.

The million dollar question is how much more transmissible - we don’t have that yet.

"We have a credible range that goes from a few percent through to 50 per cent more transmissible - I think most people feel it is going to be somewhere in the middle.

“The best estimate that I can give you is that the data will begin to firm up some time next week and I think it will be the first time when we have a ranging shot at what the transmissibility increase is.”