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Surge testing begins in Canterbury after 'Indian strain' Covid cases rise

Surge testing is being rolled out in part of Kent - after concerns over a rise of the Covid-19 variant first detected in India.

The two-week targeted enhanced testing programme is taking place in Canterbury from today, and will see health officials urge people living, working or studying in two postcode areas to get tested for the virus.

The Canterbury district is the county's coronavirus hotspot and has seen a number of cases of the so-called Indian variant in recent weeks, including at both the University of Kent and The King's School, where targeted testing has taken place to monitor its spread.

In the week leading up to May 21 the district saw 42 such cases - nearly half the total figure recorded across the county.

From today, anyone living, working or studying in all CT1 postcodes and the CT2 7 postcode - who is over the age of 12 and does not have Covid-19 symptoms - is urged to get a PCR test at one of five new mobile testing units.

The units will be located at the city's three park and rides, in New Dover Road, Wincheap and Sturry Road; and at Darwin College car park and Keynes College car park at the University of Kent.

The testing units will be open for walk-in appointments only from 9am until 7pm, seven days a week until June 15. Appointments cannot be booked.

One of the mobile testing sites will be stationed at Wincheap park and ride. Picture: Andy Jones
One of the mobile testing sites will be stationed at Wincheap park and ride. Picture: Andy Jones

Kent's interim Director of Public Health, Dr Allison Duggal says the surge testing is part of a "highly precautionary approach" to the recently emerged variant, adding: "we don't want to take anything for granted".

She stressed that the number of cases of the 'Indian strain' - also known as the B.1.617.2 variant - in the county are low.

"Those identified to date have isolated appropriately, with their contacts traced and testing offered," she said.

“But, in line with several other local authorities in England who are carrying out enhanced testing, we don’t want to take anything for granted.

"Working closely with Public Health England and Canterbury City Council, we are adopting a highly precautionary approach, continually assessing the situation and acting quickly to tackle outbreaks before they have a chance to spread.

Cllr Rachel Carnac. Picture: Andy Jones
Cllr Rachel Carnac. Picture: Andy Jones

“If you live in the relevant postcodes, I urge you to get tested at one of the mobile testing sites in Canterbury even if you have had one or two Covid vaccinations.

"If everyone plays their part by continuing to follow the public health advice in their local area, and getting vaccinated when invited, we can break chains of transmission and keep Kent safe.”

Those taking part will be notified of their result - whether positive or negative for coronavirus - in the usual way, by NHS Test and Trace and are not expected to self-isolate while awaiting the outcome.

All positive results will be sent for further analysis and genome-sequencing to determine which strain of the virus is present.

Anyone who currently has symptoms of coronavirus - high temperature, a new or continuous cough, a loss or change in taste or smell - should not take part in this enhanced testing initiative but should book a test by visiting the Government's website or by calling 119.

"Please do your bit and get tested to help us combat this virus..."

Children aged 13-15 must be accompanied at the testing units by a parent or carer.

Cllr Rachel Carnac, Deputy Leader of Canterbury City Council, said: “Whether you live, work or study in the affected postcodes, please do your bit and get tested to help us combat this virus at such a vital time.

“We've come this far because we have pulled together so brilliantly well and we have to keep that going.”

Dr Duggal added: “There’s also much we can do to protect ourselves against all Covid variants, from following the ‘hands-face-space-and let in fresh air’ guidance to making ‘test-record-repeat’ part of our weekly routine and getting vaccinated when it’s our turn.

"Being vigilant is key to helping the county stay on track to recovery.”

People who do not live in the two Canterbury postcodes where enhanced testing is taking place are encouraged to book a test at one of Kent's symptom-free testing centres.

To find out more details and to book a test, visit KCC’s website here.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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