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Extra testing in Frankley Great Park and parts of south Northfield due to COVID-19 variant

Testing is to be increased in order to monitor and suppress the South African variant.

Extensive surveillance of COVID-19 has identified a small number of cases of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa, in localities across England, including in the Frankley Great Park ward and parts of south Northfield area of Birmingham, which can’t be traced back to international travel.

The council is working closely with Public Health England and the national NHS Track and Trace team to support measures to curb any potential spread of this variant; this will include significantly increasing the testing offer in a targeted and intelligence-led way.

Residents, over the age of 18, who are living or working in Frankley Great Park ward and part of south Northfield between Frankley and the A38, since 1 January 2021, are strongly encouraged to take a PCR COVID-19 test this week through one of the designated sites in the area, even if they are not showing symptoms.

You can find your ward by using our postcode checker.

For people with no coronavirus symptoms in the affected area you can access a testing:

  • Drive through testing is available at the St.Modwen testing site without an appointment from Thursday 3 February.
  • A further Mobile Test Unit will be opened on Friday.
  • The Council is also opening a series of designated sites for citizens to collect home testing kit to test at home and return to the same venue the same day for return to the lab.
  • We are working with local businesses to make testing available for their staff in workplaces and employers are being written to with details of this this week.

It is important people test through these designated sites because the samples are sent back to a specific laboratory for analysis and individuals should get their results within 48 hours.

If you have coronavirus symptoms you should get a free NHS test to check if you have coronavirus.

If a person tests positive, has any symptoms, or are contact traced following close contact with someone who tests positive, they should self-isolate immediately and there is both financial and practice support available.

There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it, however it is important that we control the spread of this new variant quickly.

Testing, in combination with measures such as hands-face-space and lockdown measures, will help to suppress and control the spread of the virus, while enabling a better understanding of the new variant.

Positive tests will be sequenced to identify any further spread of the new variant first discovered in South Africa, enabling a better understanding of the variant and identifying if there are any more cases of this particular strand of the virus in the area. If someone tests positive, they must self-isolate immediately and pass on details of their contacts to NHS Test and Trace.

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor for NHS Test and Trace said: "As part of our proactive sequencing work, we know that the new variant of COVID-19, first detected in South Africa, has been identified in a number of areas across England. A small proportion of these cases have no link to international travel suggesting that there are some cases in the community. In response to this, we are ramping up testing in targeted areas, so we can gather more information and effectively monitor any further community transmission.

Katie Spence, Deputy Director, PHE West Midlands, said: "The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in Birmingham. I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant. The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place, limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus.”

Dr Justin Varney, Director of Public Health, Birmingham City Council, said: “Testing is an important part of containing the spread of the virus. This new variant from South Africa presents a new risk so it is essential that all adults in the affected areas takes up this offer of testing to help us contain the spread quickly. People who are essential workers and have to leave home to work at the moment should access testing as soon as possible to minimise the risk of spreading the virus in their workplace, but they can continue to attend work if it is unavoidable. The majority of us should be working from home and only leaving home for the essential reasons set out in the current guidelines. There is financial and practical support available for those who test positive and have to isolate and their contacts and it is vital we all play our part in controlling this new challenge.”

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