Sunderland Health Chief responds to South African variant in Middlesbrough


SUNDERLAND’S Director of Public Health has renewed calls to follow lockdown rules after the South African COVID-19 variant was found in Middlesbrough.

Mapped: Where the South African variant of COVID-19 has been detected in the UK (Last updated 15/02/21)

A CASE of the South African variant, which health experts fear is less responsive to current vaccines, was found over the weekend in Middlesbrough.

Further testing has been introduced in Middlesbrough to detect any cases of the variant. Anyone over 16 is being urged to get a test.

Gerry Taylor, the Executive Director of Public Health at Sunderland City Council, told SR News: “There is of course a risk that the South African variant identified in Middlesbrough could spread to Sunderland and actions now being taken on Teesside are designed to reduce that risk.

“Close monitoring of the virus and its variants continues and last month, for example, around eight-out-of-ten Sunderland cases were of the newer highly transmissible variant that was first identified in the south of England before Christmas.

“As recently identified variants are more transmissible, it is especially important that everyone follows the Stay At Home advice except for when they need to leave and buy essential items, if they cannot work from home, if they are exercising or have medical appointments, and that everyone follows the Hands, Face, Space guidance.

“This means regularly and thoroughly washing hands, using face coverings indoors, and staying at least two metres (6ft) away from people you do not live with.”

Middlesbrough is the furthest north the South African variant has been detected. So far it has been found in 17 locations across the UK.

Esther Mireku, Consultant in Public Health, said: “The high prevalence of Covid in [Middlesbrough], combined with the reporting of this variant, are a reminder to everyone of the importance of staying at home as much as possible and following hands-face-space when out for an essential reason.”

Middlesbrough Council are currently offering free COVID tests for people without symptoms. Sunderland City Council has a targeted testing scheme in place for frontline workers who cannot work from home.

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