As you may have heard in the Secretary of State’s statement yesterday, cases of a mutated form of the COVID-19 variant first found in Kent (VOC202012/01) have been detected in the Bristol area (Bristol and South Gloucestershire) which includes the E484K mutation. Eleven cases were initially identified and investigations are under way to identify further cases.
This is not the same variant as identified in South Africa or Brazil.
Public Health England routinely investigate samples of positive COVID cases all of the time as part of the national surveillance programme. If new variants or mutations are identified these are investigated to ascertain if these are more transmissible or harmful; also to identify if they are becoming more widespread.
As a result of this surveillance programme we were aware that the Kent strain was circulating in the South West and in the wider Bristol area.
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. This could possibly include action seen in other parts of the country such as door to door testing in certain areas. However it remains unclear if this will be required in Bristol.
Meanwhile the guidance remains the same.
It is essential that everyone continues to follow the lockdown rules and remember ‘hands, face, space’. You should stay at home unless it is essential to leave the house. We know the new Kent variant is much more infectious and spreads more easily. COVID-19 spreads from person to person, so it’s really important that you limit your contact with people you don’t live with. Everyone needs to behave at all times as if they are infectious.
Health and Care staff should remain vigilant about Infection, Prevention and Control measures.
Around 1 in 3 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.
If you have coronavirus symptoms, please book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119. There is plenty testing capacity available 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.
The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to observe social distancing and abide by the restrictions in place. Whilst in lockdown, it is important that we stay at home unless it is absolutely essential to go out.
Director of Public Health, Bristol
Director of Public Health, South Gloucestershire