A case of the Covid-19 variant first discovered in South Africa has been reported in Middlesbrough.
The positive case is linked to the Marton and Coulby Newham areas. It was identified as part of random sequencing by Public Health England. Enhanced contact tracing has taken place and there are no obvious links to international travel.
Middlesbrough Council is setting up an additional test centre at the Parkway Centre in Coulby Newham.
Anyone aged over 16, who lives in and around Marton and Coulby Newham, or regularly visits the Parkway Centre, is encouraged to come forward for a test.
This case has been detected thanks to the efficiency of our robust testing regime. Vaccinations continue at pace and cases in Middlesbrough continue to fall. So while there is no cause for undue alarm, I would urge anybody aged 16 and over from the Marton and Coulby Newham areas, as well as anybody who regularly visits the Parkway Centre, to get tested whether or not you have symptoms.
How do I get tested?
The test site in car park 2, opposite KFC on Dalby Way, TS8 0TW, will be open from 9am until 3pm from Saturday February 13.
There is no requirement to book in advance.
All positive tests will be analysed to identify any further spread of the South African variant.
There is currently no evidence to suggest the South African variant is more serious than others.
Extra testing, in combination with national lockdown measures, will help to control the spread of the virus and increase understanding of the new variant.
Other testing in Middlesbrough:
Cannon Park (Drive-through, 8am-8pm, seven days a week)
Teesside University Printworks car park, Woodlands Road (Walk-through, 8am-8pm, seven days a week)
Ormesby Road, Pallister Park (Walk-through, 8am-8pm, seven days a week)
Viewley Centre car park, Hemlington (Drive-through, Monday - Tuesday, 9am-3pm)
Cargo Fleet Lane (Drive-through currently Wednesday - Sunday, 9am-3pm).
While the overall Covid infection rate in Middlesbrough has now halved from its peak in early January, it has still not decreased as much as we would have liked. The high prevalence of Covid in the town, 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.
As of Friday February 5, the town's infection rate was 319 per 100,000 of population. It peaked at 676 on January 5.Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said it is "really important" to establish whether the variant has spread further around the town.
I don't want people to be unduly alarmed. The NHS locally is doing a fantastic job with the vaccine. The overwhelming majority of people in Middlesbrough are doing the right thing and our numbers have halved in just over a month. Much brighter days are ahead, but when new variants emerge we've got to act decisively and that's what we'll do with this additional testing.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen is urging people from across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool not to be overly alarmed by the outbreak, but says it is more important than ever for people to follow the rules.
Our region has made phenomenal progress in vaccinating the majority of our most vulnerable residents thanks to the hard work and dedication of our NHS heroes. But, while the lifesaving vaccines are being delivered, it is critical that everyone follows the rules.
The Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said earlier in January it is possible the South African coronavirus variant may have some effect on vaccine effectiveness but is unlikely to “abolish” their effect.
He said that a possible change in the virus shape in the variant “theoretically gives it a bit more risk of not being recognised” by the immune system.
Community testing in Middlesbrough:
In addition to testing for those with symptoms, Middlesbrough Council is currently offering free rapid tests for people without symptoms. This testing is particularly aimed at those who can't work from home and therefore come into contact with more people.
One in three people with Covid-19 do not display symptoms. Community testing can help find more people who are infected to help to stop the spread.
Testing is available at Middlesbrough Sports Village Wednesday - Sunday.
Community sites for those without symptoms will also open at North Ormesby Hub (from February 15) and Newport Hub (from February 16).
Community tests can be booked via www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/communitytesting.