SURGE testing is being deployed in Lancashire after an outbreak of the new Indian mutation of Covid.
All those infected with the variant have been told to isolate as health chiefs send in crack teams to deal with rising cases in Burnley, Pendle, Hyndburn and Rossendale.
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Officials will knock on doors and set up mobile units to offer tests in the affected areas.
It comes as:
News of surging cases in the north-western county was revealed as the number of people newly-infected with the virus in the UK soared past 4,000 today for the first time in two months.
A further 4,182 people have tested positive in the past 24 hours.
Last night, Matt Hancock warned “this isn’t over yet” as the PM cast fresh doubt on the final stage of his roadmap out of lockdown.
The Health Secretary told a No10 press conference that Britain was still in a race between “the virus and the vaccine” and it was “too early” to tell if the unlocking could take place as planned.
A “formal assessment” of data will take place next week – as medics grow increasingly gloomy about the new surge.
Mr Hancock said up to three quarters of new cases in the UK are the new, more easily transmissible, India variant.
And Boris Johnson has urged caution, without ruling June 21 out altogether.
Mr Johnson said yesterday there’s nothing in the data to suggest a delay but that “we might have to wait” for a final decision.
He told reporters: “I don’t see anything in the data to suggest that we have to deviate from the roadmap. But we may need to wait.
“The point about the gap between the steps is we have put 5 weeks between the steps so we can see the effects unlocking have.
“We have to wait a bit longer to see what is happening past step 3 on May 17 – to see exactly what is happening.”
The news comes as one expert said people under the age of 21 may be more vulnerable to the worrying mutation.
Prof Neil Ferguson, whose models on UK Covid deaths led to the first national lockdown, revealed there is a “signal” in the data that it’s spreading more quickly in the young.
He said the Indian variant was now “the dominant strain” in the UK and the full reopening of society next month “hangs in the balance”.
And Prof Ravi Gupta, a microbiologist at Cambridge University, has warned Brits must brace for more “weird things” from Covid – including “super mutant viruses” – and said: “This is just the beginning.”
The new Lancashire outbreak will likely cause further debate as to whether easing measures altogether can go ahead.
Government officials said of the surge testing: “Local authorities will shortly confirm the areas where additional testing will be offered in their boroughs, and reach out directly to residents to ensure people come forward for testing to stop the spread of the virus.
“Everyone who lives, works or studies in the targeted areas and settings, including children, are being strongly encouraged to take a Covid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, whether they are showing symptoms or not.”