Urgent warning against leaving home in UK areas hit by South African strain

Residents in areas where the South African Covid variant has been transmitted should ‘think again’ before deciding to leave the house, a minister has said.

Ealing, Haringey, Mitcham, Walsall, Broxbourne, Maidstone, Woking and Southport are currently considered to be hotspots for the South African strain, which is more infectious than other variants.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Michelle Donelan described the UK as at a ‘perilous’ stage of the pandemic and urged residents within the eight postcodes to take extra caution when leaving their homes.

She went on: ‘The message is “think again” just before you go about activities, even for those activities that are within the rules such as essential shopping.

‘Do you really need to go for that shopping or have you got enough in? Could you work from home? Could you have that conversation with your employer? It’s about reinforcing the rules that are in place.

‘We’re at that final hurdle, but it’s still a very perilous stage of this virus and we’ve got these new variants spreading, so we do have to be extra vigilant and really abide by those rules to the letter of them, and also contemplate every action and activity that we do.’

More than 100 cases of the South African variant have been uncovered in the UK, of which 11 had no links to international travel, the government said this week. The strain is not believed to be more deadly than other variations of the virus.

Door-to-door testing is now being rolled out across at-risk areas and is expected to reach around 80,000 people. Each resident visited will be requested to take a PCR Covid test, which provides results on the same day.

Public Health England (PHE) is also studying whether those who have already had the vaccine will need a booster shot ‘a bit like the annual flu vaccine’ to help protect them against Covid-19 mutations.

On Monday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was ‘vital’ the UK do everything they can to stop the transmission of the South African strain. He went on: ‘It’s a big effort getting this new variant… essentially finding every single case of it, that is the goal.’

He added: ‘The best way to stop the spread of the virus – including new variants – is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place. Until more people are vaccinated, this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus.’

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