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Door-to-do testing for South African variant of Covid-19 in ME15 areas

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Tomorrow a large scale testing operation will begin in Maidstone, after a resident tested positive for the South African variant of Covid-19.

Members of the the emergency services will be knocking on doors in the ME15 postcode area of Maidstone which includes the wards of South, Loose, High Street and Shepway North.

Testing will be carried out in a large part of Maidstone
Testing will be carried out in a large part of Maidstone

This includes police officers, fire men and council officers who have been deployed to help get as many people tested as possible, to prevent the spread of the strain.

The person who tested positive lives and works in Maidstone and no connection to travel to South Africa could be established, consequently raising the prospect of community transmission.

There is no evidence that the South Africa variant causes more serious illness for the vast majority of people who become infected.

But the strain appears to be more contagious.

Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) has now revealed more details of how the testing will be carried out.

Maidstone council leader Cllr Martin Cox
Maidstone council leader Cllr Martin Cox

Members of the testing taskforce will go from ‘door to door’, asking residents to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid test.

All members of the household aged 16 and over will be asked to carry out a PCR test whether they have symptoms or not.

The testing kit will be dropped off, residents will self-administer it, the kit will then be picked up within a short time after the initial visit by the same team.

A mobile testing unit will also be based in the car park outside the YMCA at Melrose Close, Loose, to assist people who are unable to be tested at home and used as a drop off point for these tests.

The test site will work in such a way as to ensure that people arriving for a test are kept separate from nearby buildings and in a manner to minimise disruption for everyone.

The tests will be sent to laboratories for sequencing to identify whether the positive test results also test positive for the specific variant strain known as the South African variant.

A Kent County Council spokesperson confirmed the tests were not compulsory but the staff going door-to-door would explain the importance of them and residents would also be receiving a letter to give information on why the testing was happening.

Maidstone council leader, Cllr Martin Cox said: “We all need to play our part in helping in this surge-testing, and I am encouraging everyone to help and support this huge exercise.

"I cannot stress how important it is for everyone to keep following the hands, face, space government advice.”

A total of 105 cases of the South African strain, called SARS-CoV-2 variant have been identified to date across the UK.

County councillor Gary Cooke, whose ward, Maidstone South East, will see testing, said it should be made clear whether people who test positive with the South African strain, will be told about this, or just told they've tested positive.

He said: "This has all been thrown together very rapidly, nothing wrong with that, but what is the plan longer term?"

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