We are working closely with the Public Health England (PHE) South West Health Protection team to investigate a cluster of cases in Bristol and South Gloucestershire of a mutated form of the UK Covid-19 variant which was first identified in Kent.
This is not the same variant as identified in South Africa or Brazil.
Public Health England routinely investigates samples of positive Covid-19 cases as part of the national surveillance programme and if new variants or mutations are identified, these are investigated to ascertain if they are more transmissible or harmful; also to identify if they are becoming more widespread.
As a result of this surveillance programme, we are aware that the Kent variant is circulating in the South West and more specifically in the Bristol area, including parts of South Gloucestershire.
The recent mutation (E484K) will be reviewed by the national variant technical group, which, may recommend that the Bristol and South Gloucestershire cluster should be included in the national programme for further in depth investigation and action such as enhanced contact tracing, epidemiological mapping, additional testing and genome typing. We are working closely with Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care to confirm what further investigations will be undertaken.
Although this news of the new mutation is concerning, our advice remains consistent in that it is imperative that we continue to observe social distancing guidelines and abide by the restrictions in place. It is important that we stay at home unless it is absolutely essential to go out. This includes working from home if you can.
We know the new Kent variant is much more infectious and spreads more easily, so it’s really important that you limit your contact with people you don’t live with. Around one in three people with COVID-19 do not have any symptoms but are infectious. This is why we all need to act as if we and everyone else has the virus. By remembering to follow ‘hands, face, space’ at all times, you will be helping to restrict the spread of the virus – and you may even be saving someone’s life.
If you have coronavirus symptoms, please book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119. There is plenty of testing capacity and there are local testing sites available across the local area. If you test positive, have any symptoms, or are contact traced following contact with someone who tests positive, you should self-isolate immediately.
For further information and guidance visit COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2): information about the new virus variant – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)