First pictures as queue forms for testing after South African covid variant found in Middlesbrough – Teesside Live

Queues have already begun to form at a mobile site testing for the South African variant of covid on Teesside.

The new variant was found in a case in Middlesbrough after random sequencing from Public Health England, the first in the North-east, the council confirmed on Friday evening.

Now, every adult living in Marton or Coulby Newham – or regular visitors to the Parkway shopping centre – are advised to get a test as authorities try to halt the spread of the new variant.

There’s no evidence it causes more serious illness than other strains of the disease – but it appears to spread more quickly, and could be more resistant to some vaccines.

Now, queues have formed at a car park at the Parkway Centre as locals look to get tested.

Around 50 or more people were waiting, socially distanced, for a walk-in test at around 9.30am.

There is also a drive-through facility at the site.

The test centre is for those with or without symptoms, who live in the two areas or regularly visit the shopping centre.

Anyone else living in Middlesbrough or other parts of Teesside should visit other testing sites – if you have symptoms, book through 119 or the NHS booking website. Asymptomatic testing is also available across Teesside.

There’s a mixture of test and trace and security staff from the shopping centre overseeing the operation.

The site – in the Parkway 2 car park, TS8 0TW, opened at 9am and will remain open until 3pm today and in coming days.

Staff direct cars for the drive through facility at the surge testing site at Coulby Newham, after the South African covid variant was discovered in Middlesbrough
(Image: Teesside Live)

Pre-booking is not required, and all positive tests will be analysed to identify any further spread of the South African variant.

Those who test positive should self-isolate, which will slow any potential spread of the new variant.

Esther Mireku, Consultant in Public Health, said: “I urge everyone over the age of 16 in the Marton and Coulby Newham areas to come forward for a test.

“This will help us understand more about the potential spread of this new variant.”

She continued: “While the overall covid infection rate in Middlesbrough has now halved from its peak in early January, it has still not decreased as much as we would have liked.

“The high prevalence of covid in the town, combined with the reporting of this variant, are a reminder to everyone of the importance of staying at home as much as possible and following hands-face-space when out for an essential reason.”

Queues for the surge testing site at Coulby Newham after the South African covid variant was discovered in Middlesbrough
(Image: Teesside Live)

So far, there has only been 202 confirmed and probable cases of the new variant found in the UK.

Coronavirus has been changing in ways that might help it escape some of the body’s immune system defences – with a number of new variants already discovered.

One mutation – dubbed the ‘Kent variant’ – was first found in the South-east of England in September, with scientists confirming it is much more transmissible than the original covid-19 strain which spread last spring.

So far, there have been more than 59,000 cases of that variant tracked by the Government.