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New testing to take place in Leeds to help track potential COVID-19 variants

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Residents in parts of Leeds are being asked to take part in a new programme of testing designed to help national research into the potential spread of COVID-19 variants.

Starting next week, people living in parts of the LS8 area, including parts of the Harehills area and the area just north of Easterly Road, will be encouraged to take a simple COVID-19 test which will help experts build a better picture of how different strains of the virus could be transmitted.

The testing follows two cases of COVID-19 picked up in a household in the area in early January. After receiving positive tests, the residents isolated, notified test and trace teams and no further cases were identified among contacts. Both residents have since made a full recovery and there has been no evidence of transmission in the wider community.

Subsequently, sophisticated genomic sequencing was carried out by Public Health England which found the cases could potentially have been an incident of the South African variant, although this could not be fully determined. As a result, and in order to help build a clearer picture of how any possible cases of the variant may occur, a limited, week-long period of additional testing will now be taking place from next week.

The programme will see people living in parts of the LS8 area who have not had any symptoms of COVID-19 invited to take a test either at home or at any mobile testing unit as well as taking part in enhanced contact tracing.

Victoria Eaton, Leeds City Council’s director of Public Health said:

“We want to reassure local residents that the extra testing being announced for people without symptoms is to help us better understand and prepare for new variants in our communities.

“There is absolutely no indication of live cases of the South African variant in the LS8 area, and no evidence of a greater risk of transmission for local people.  Levels of infection have been falling in these areas of Leeds over recent weeks, in line with improving infection rates right across the city, which is really positive news and we want to do all we can to keep these rates falling.

“Cases of the South African variant also remain very low nationally, and it does not lead to more severe disease and is not thought to be any more contagious than the dominant UK variant.

“This additional testing will allow us to find any potential asymptomatic cases of new variants and build a more detailed, comprehensive picture of where those cases may come from and how they might spread.

“Anyone who is approached to take part would be playing a really important role in national efforts to stay ahead of COVID-19, and we would encourage local residents to take up offers to be tested.”

Everyone in Leeds can also continue to do their bit to help fight the spread of COVID-19 by:

  • Staying home as much as you can and minimising contact with others when you do need to go out. Acting as though you have the virus is the best way to stay safe.
  • Regularly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Wearing a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • Staying two metres apart from people you do not live with where possible.
  • Getting a vaccine as soon as you’re eligible to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
  • Ensuring work venues are as COVID secure as possible.
  • Remembering that if you’ve had your vaccination or previously tested positive for COVID-19, it’s important that everyone still follows the rules to keep us all safe.

You can find out more about how and where to get a COVID-19 test by visiting: www.leedsccg.nhs.uk

Source Leeds City Council