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Extra testing after South African COVID-19 variant found in Stockton-on-Tees

04 March 2021

People who live in the TS19 postcode area of Stockton-on-Tees are being urged to get tested after a case of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa was identified there.

Image of North Tees Hospital in google maps

Robust contact tracing has taken place and the case cannot be traced back to international travel.

Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council is opening an additional testing centre in the Borough from tomorrow (March 5).

And anyone aged over 16 who lives in the TS19 postcode area is being urged to come forward and get tested, even if they do not have symptoms.

"The evidence suggests this variant is more infectious than some other variants so we need to identify any further cases as quickly as possible," said the Council's Director of Public Health, Sarah Bowman-Abouna.

"The more cases we find, the better chance we have of suppressing it.

"Please help to keep your community safe by getting tested so we can find the variant and protect you and your loved ones.

"Testing is a valid reason for leaving home but please stay at home otherwise, in line with the national rules.

"And remember - hands, face, space can also help stop the spread."

How do I get a test?

Please use the testing site closest to where you live or work.

If you live in the TS19 postcode area and do not have any symptoms of COVID-19:

  • you can book a test at one of the existing testing centres at Stockton Splash, Billingham Forum or Thornaby Pavilion
  • you now also have the option of booking a test at a new mobile testing unit based in the car park of Tithebarn House on High Newham Road, Hardwick, TS19 8RH

The Stockton Splash, Billingham Forum or Thornaby Pavilion testing centres are open from 8am to 4pm on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and from 10am to 6pm on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Appointments at the mobile testing unit in the car park of Tithebarn House will be available every day from 10am to 5pm and will be in place until the end of Wednesday, March 17.

Tests at any of these locations must be booked in advance by calling 01642 528474.

All positive tests will be analysed to identify any further spread of the new variant first discovered in South Africa.

This will enable a better understanding of the variant and identify if there are any more cases of this particular strand of the virus in the area.

If you test positive, have any symptoms, or are contact traced following contact with someone who tests positive, you should self-isolate immediately.

I have COVID-19 symptoms - what should I do?

If you have COVID-19 symptoms (a high temperature, a new continuous cough or loss or change in your sense of taste or smell) - no matter how mild - you must book a test by calling 119.

Please stay at home while waiting for the test and only leave your home to have the test. Stay at home while you are waiting for your test result - you could be infectious, and it is important that you do not spread the virus.

Everyone in your household should also stay at home during this time.

I'm currently shielding, do I need to get a test?

If you fall into the 'Clinically Extremely Vulnerable' category and are shielding, and you have no symptoms, then the advice is that you should not get a test as you are safest staying at home.

You should only get a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms, in which case you should book a test by calling 119.

Is the South African variant of COVID-19 more serious?

There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.

What is the current infection rate in Stockton-on-Tees?

There were 223 new cases during the week ending February 28, a rate of 113.0 per 100,000 population.

That compares with 357 new cases and a rate of 180.9 per 100,000 population the previous week.

"While we've seen significant falls in rates during the national lockdown, we really need to see rates falling further and then staying low," said the Council's Director of Public Health, Sarah Bowman-Abouna.