Leeds LS8 Covid surge testing latest after two probable South African variant cases detected

There is no "live" South African Covid variant circulating in Leeds, a leading councillor has assured residents after a surge testing programme was instigated.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 6:00 am

Around 5,000 Covid tests were made available to residents in one Leeds postcode during a week-long programme of additional testing.

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Two dedicated sites were set up within the Harehills area, with PCR swab kits also delivered door-to-door for those who preferred to complete their test at home.

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Coun Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s member for health and wellbeing. Picture: Gary Longbottom

The Department of Health and Social Care had announced there would be a focus on the LS8 postcode after genomic sequencing identified two probable cases of the South Africa variant.

By offering testing on a mass scale to those who live and work locally, regardless of whether they had Covid symptoms, it was hoped that any further cases could be identified and sequenced for genomic data to help understand Covid-19 variants and their spread.

Coun Salma Arif Leeds City Council’s member for health and wellbeing, said: “As far as we’re concerned, there isn’t a South African variant live in the community. The additional testing was put together to better understand if there was a variant, how it would work out in communities.”

She added that overall Covid infection rates had been coming down in that area generally, just as in other parts of Leeds.

The focus of the additional testing was in Harehills and to the north of Easterly Road, with extra test sites at the Infinity Leeds community centre in Conway Road and Shine in Harehills Road.

"Locals just got on side," Coun Arif said. "A lot of them know the council officers that work in the communities. Having places like Infinity and Shine, those are a place people trust. It's better than having things parachuted in. It was all well received.

"It was a really brilliant team effort across the partners. They came in very quickly, got the additional testing done, reached out to local organisations. It just goes to show we're well-equipped to deal with anything like this."

Coun Arif said the additional testing, which concluded on Tuesday, had complemented the work already being done to educate businesses about social distancing and other measures.

"We're still waiting on data in terms of the home testing kits," she said.

She added that anyone testing positive was being advised about self-isolating and the support available.

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