By G9ija

Surge testing for Covid-19 has been rolled out in part of Essex after a case of the South African variant of the virus was discovered there.

People who live or work in the CM13 postcode in Brentwood, are being “strongly encouraged” to take a test, by authorities.

This applies to all those aged over 16, who do not have any symptoms, regardless of whether they have already been vaccinated or not.

Those who have had a positive Covid-19 test in the last 90 days do not need to get surge testing done.

The targeted testing is being rolled out by Public Health England, NHS Test and Trace and Brentwood Borough Council and Essex County Council.

Surge testing of people without symptoms is used in a bid to control and suppress the potential spread of virus variants in the community, as well as helping to increase understanding of variants.

Those living in the affected area will receive a letter this week explaining where and when they can get a test.

Tests for those without symptoms can be booked at mobile testing sites, which have been set up at several places in Brentwood, via the government website.

Alternatively, home testing kits can be picked up from the car park of Adult Community Learning, in Brentwood.

People with symptoms should still book an appointment for a test the usual way, through the Gov.uk website or via the NHS COVID-19 app.

Anyone who tests positive must self-isolate immediately.

Positive tests in regions where surge testing is being rolled out will be sent to a laboratory for genomic sequencing to see what variant it is.

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said: “Working in partnership with the local authority, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to the CM13 postcode in Brentwood, Essex, where a single case of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.”

Cllr John Spence, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care at Essex County Council, assured people not to be concerned about the roll out of surge testing.

“This is very much a precautionary measure which has been carried out in other areas of the country. It will provide us with valuable insights about any potential spread of this particular variant and help us to suppress it,” he said.

The south-African variant is thought to be more transmissible than some other variants, though there is no evidence that it is more dangerous, according to Essex County Council.

Surge testing has previously been deployed in several locations across in England.

Areas where surge testing has recently been used in the community, include specific postcodes in Manchester, Bristol, Middlesborough and more.

Sequencing of positive PCR tests – swabs that are processed in a laboratory – can take around two weeks, according to Public Health England.

The DHSC has said data on surge testing will be provided “in due course”.

More information on surge testing in the CM13 area and how to get a test can be found on the Essex County Council website.