Community COVID-19 testing is to be expanded in Bristol and Liverpool as part of a push to stop the spread of new viral variants, the Guardian reports.
Viral variants have been identified in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil. Initial studies have suggested that the UK variant may be more easily transmitted, while others have indicated that existing vaccines may be less effective against the South African one.
UK Health Minister Matt Hancock announced the expanded testing earlier this week, the Guardian says, adding that Hancock noted that 11 cases of "mutations of concern" had been identified in Bristol and 32 in Liverpool. It notes, though, that Public Health England later determined that cases did not represent South African and Brazilian viral strains, but original SARS-CoV-2 pandemic or UK strains that also developed a mutation — E484K — seen in those strains.
"As with the variant first identified here in the UK, there is currently no evidence to suggest it is any more severe but we have to come down on it hard," Hancock told MPs, according to the Guardian. "Our mission must be to stop its spread all together and break those chains of transmission."