Anyone who has returned to Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire after visiting London or the south east is being urged to get a test – to stop the spread of a new virulent strain of coronavirus.
The local NHS has issued an urgent plea for people to get swabbed in a bid to stop the mutant Covid-19 taking off in the county.
The news comes after it emerged the strain – known as ‘VUI – 202012/01’ – has ‘probably’ already reached Stoke-on-Trent although cases are likely to be low.
There were reports of Stoke Station being ‘packed’ as passengers got off one of the last trains from London on Saturday evening before the new restrictions banning travel out of Tier 4 areas came in at midnight.
Urging people to be extra vigilant, Dr Richard Harling, director for health and care at Staffordshire County Council, said: “There is still a lot we do not know about this new strain, such as whether already having had COVID gives you immunity from it.
“But we do know that it seems to spread very quickly.
“So it is more important than ever that people follow the rules and avoid any unnecessary contacts.
“We are also advising anyone who has returned to Staffordshire or Stoke-on-Trent from London or the South East to arrange a COVID test even if they feel well and have no symptoms.
“It is inevitable cases of the new strain will arrive in our area, but we can all do our bit to slow it down and protect the vulnerable and our services – remember hands, face, space.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has already warned that the new strain is ‘out of control’ as he suggested draconian Tier 4 restrictions could be in place ‘until we have the vaccine rolled out’.
He said people in Tier 4 areas should behave as if they are infected in order to combat the new variant of the disease which spreads 70 per cent quicker than its predecessor.
Mr Hancock said the new strain can be caught ‘more easily from a smaller amount of the virus being present’ as he confirmed areas subject to the toughest restrictions are likely to be in the top tier for the long haul.
To book a test, call 119 or go online.