On Saturday (13 February), the County Council communicated that a positive case of the South African variant of Covid-19 had been found in the Bramley area. In line with government guidelines, the County Council is working with us, Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to implement a localised rapid testing programme in the area. This has had extensive national and local media coverage.

All residents over the age of 16 years in the identified area are being asked to undertake a free Covid-19 test. The test is voluntary, but residents will be encouraged to take part to help DHSC to better understand and prevent the spread of new variants. Those taking part can expect to receive their results from NHS Test and Trace within two to three days.

It is expected that the testing programme will begin on Wednesday, involving some 2,000 properties in the local area. A team, led by Hampshire County Council and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, with support from the voluntary sector, will deliver testing kits, an explanatory letter and instructions to each property. Those delivering will show formal identification.

Households will be asked to register the testing kit(s) online, then encouraged to complete the test(s) promptly, following which the team will collect the completed tests. Arrangements are being made to support households who do not have online access to register. More detailed information about how the testing programme works, a postcode checker to help residents confirm whether they are affected and a set of FAQs have been published on the County Council’s website.

It is important to note that the risk of transmission from this particular case is considered to be very low, helped by the fact that national restrictions are in place with most people staying at home and adhering to the government guidance of ‘hands-face-space’. Furthermore, there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness, or that the regulated vaccines do not protect against it.

Linked operations are established in other parts of the UK. There is a list of all locations and further information available on GOV UK – surge testing and variants: distribution of cases data.