A ‘variant of concern’ has been detected in Chelmsford, and residents are being advised by public health experts to get tested to keep it in check.

Essex County Council is working closely with Public Health England, Chelmsford City Council and Essex and Southend Contact Tracing Service following the emergence of a small number of cases of the Covid-19 Variant of Concern, VoC 1617.2, in Chelmsford. This is the variant thought to have originated in India.

At present, the variant has been identified in cases within seven households. The majority of these cases have no obvious link to foreign travel, it is therefore likely that the variant is present in the community.

Targeted PCR testing at locations where individuals from these households are known to have visited will take place.

Regional and local public health experts are also calling for residents living in the Chelmsford City Council area to do a Lateral Flow Test as soon as possible.

Residents can collect at home tests kits from their local library or pharmacy or order online. The self-testing kits are easy to use and deliver results in approximately half an hour.

Testing will help identify anyone who may have been infected but is not displaying symptoms. Those who test positive will then need to self- isolate, which will prevent further spread.

Should a resident test positive they must then take a PCR test to confirm. If this test is positive, the results will be used by Public Health England to test for the variant.

Director of Public Health at Essex County Council, Dr Mike Gogarty, said: “Though the light is at the end of the tunnel with the continued roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine, the emergence of this new variant proves we can’t let down our guard. We need anyone not showing Covid-19 symptoms, particularly those in Chelmsford, to play their part and take a test.

“I would ask that all residents across the county continue to test regularly. Regular self-testing, twice a week, with lateral flow tests can reduce the spread of infection and stop people unknowingly passing on the virus to others.”

Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, Cllr John Spence, said: “It will be no great surprise that this variant has emerged somewhere in Essex. We all want restrictions to be eased, so we want to nip this in the bud – it is not a cause for huge concern, but it is a cause for caution, and this is precautionary.”

Leader of Chelmsford City Council, Cllr Stephen Robinson, said: “I understand that the news of a variant of concern emerging in Chelmsford is worrying. I have confidence in the recommendations from our Public Health team to address this issue.

“So if you live in the Chelmsford City Council area, please do pick up or order a Lateral Flow test and take it right away.

“If we all work together, continue to follow all the guidelines (including keeping our distance from others) and test and self-isolate where required, we can stop the spread.”

The home self-test LFD test kits can be collected from libraries and pharmacies throughout the Chelmsford City Council area. They can be ordered online from the Government and delivered free to a home address. For those unable to order on-line they can be obtained by phoning 119. Any one of school age or older can have an LFD test.

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