Covid Indian cases in Northamptonshire 'not directly linked to international travel,' says health chief

Ten previous 'variant of concern' cases in the county all isolated immediately

By Kevin Nicholls
Monday, 17th May 2021, 1:18 pm
Testing at Nicholas Hawksmoor Primary School last week was "precautionary," say health chiefs

Six cases of an Indian Covid-19 variant found in Northamptonshire are the first in the county not brought into the county from abroad, according to health chiefs.

There are currently 12 ‘variants of concern or under identification’ identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

Director Lucy Wightman revealed Northamptonshire has seen ten previous cases involving variant of concern, or VOCs — although none involve a South African strain which is thought to be most resistant to Covid vaccines.

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But the Towcester cases identified last week are the first not to be directly linked to people arriving in the UK.

Mrs Wightman added: “Prior to this outbreak, cases involving variants of concern have all been linked to international travel.

“Those involved were already isolated through government approved hotels or at home, as required by law. So there was no possibility of further transmission and no action required locally.

“The difference here is there is no international travel involved and the VOC appears to have been spread through a contact who may have travelled to an area of England with higher incidence of VOCs.

“If we find a high proportion of positive tests or a high proportion of positive tests are VOCs then we will work with PHE to undertake risk assessment to see if further surge testing is required.

“The VOC numbers are a concern but they are not alarming and come when everybody is in isolation so we are hopeful this has been contained. But we will only be aware of the size and severity of the potential impact when we have had more of the tests sequenced.”

Officials are waiting on results from a batch of PCR tests taken at Nicholas Hawksmoor Primary School in Towcester last week to see if any more are the B1.617.2 strain.

The variant, first identified in India earlier this year, is thought to be up to 40 per cent more transmissable than other strains of the virus.

Public Health Northamptonshire says the “targeted testing” is a precautionary measure and surge testing is not currently required based on the current low number of variant cases.

Cases of the Indian variant found in Towcester more than doubled to over 1,300 in the UK as of May 12 from 520 the previous week.

Cases are spread across the country with the majority in the North West — mainly in Bolton, Merseyside and Blackburn — and London.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the Indian coronavirus variant could “pose a serious disruption” to plans to ease restrictions as hoped in June.

Remaining second vaccine doses for over-50s will be accelerated so they come eight weeks after the first.

He added: “If you’re seeing loved ones, think really carefully about the risk to them, especially if they haven’t had that second dose or if it hasn’t yet had time to take full effect,” he said

Mr Johnson also urged people to “think twice” ahead of travelling to areas with higher incidences of the Indian variant and staying with family and friends within those areas.

■ Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms — a new continuous cough, loss of or change in sense of taste or a high temperature should self-isolate immediately and book a test online HERE, via the Test and Trace app or by calling 119.

■ Free lateral flow device tests are available at sites across the county — click HERE for more details — or kits can be ordered and collected for home use.