United Kingdom

Coronavirus UK: Surge testing restarts in Ealing, West London amid South Africa variant cases

Surge testing for coronavirus has been started in Ealing, West London after cases of the South African variant of the virus were found there.

The Department of Health said 'a small number' of new cases caused by the variant had been discovered in the borough.

Ealing was among the first places to get surge testing when the programme began after a case of the variant was found in the W7 postcode.

That testing sweep has been completed but the scheme has reopened because of further evidence that the variant is spreading in the borough. 

Officials said cases of the variant without any links to international travel – meaning they were caught in England – were found recently in Acton, Greenford, Southall and West Ealing.

Ealing was among the first places to get surge testing when the programme began at the start of this month, after a case of the variant was found in the W7 postcode. That scheme has been completed but it was restarted today after 'a small number' of South African variant cases were found (Pictured: A door-to-door team hands a woman a coronavirus self-test in West Ealing)

More cases of all the UK variants and the South African one have been found within the past week, PHE data show

Moderna to launch trials of new booster vaccine that targets South African Covid variant 'within weeks'

Moderna has become the first vaccine maker to develop a jab that targets the South African coronavirus variant.

The Boston-based biotech has already shipped the raw materials to the US National Institutes of Health, which helped the firm study its first jab, to start human trials.

Dr Anthony Fauci, America's leading Covid expert, and his team at the NIH will begin testing the vaccine in a small group of volunteers within weeks. 

It will be given as a top-up to people who have already received Moderna's original jab, which Britain has approved and ordered 17million doses of. The vaccine will also be tested on volunteers who have yet to receive any inoculation.

Source told MailOnline today the updated vaccine could be in people's arms by this winter at the latest, if trials are successful. 

Coronavirus swab tests will be available to anyone in the area, regardless of whether they have symptoms of Covid-19 or not.

The samples from any positive tests will then be sent to a lab so scientists can check whether the virus is the South African variant or a different strain.

Surge testing is taking place in various places in London, starting in Lambeth yesterday, and across the country as officials try to keep a lid on outbreaks.

Other places where testing is being done because worrying variants of the virus have spread include Brentwood, Essex; Diss, Norfolk; Croydon, Lambeth and Ealing in London; southern parts of Middlesbrough; Manchester; Bristol; Stafford; Walsall and Leeds.

It comes as Moderna today became the first vaccine maker to develop a jab that targets the South African coronavirus variant.

The Boston-based biotech has already shipped the raw materials to the US National Institutes of Health, which helped the firm study its first jab, to start human trials.

Dr Anthony Fauci , America's leading Covid expert, and his team at the NIH will begin testing the vaccine in a small group of volunteers within weeks.

It will be given as a top-up to people who have already received Moderna's original jab, which Britain has approved and ordered 17million doses of. The vaccine will also be tested on volunteers who have yet to receive any inoculation. 

Lab studies have shown the firm's original jab was slightly less effective against the South African strain, known scientifically as B.1.351. It still worked, but the jab only induced one-sixth of the antibodies that it did against the original strain.

The finding raised concerns that newer, further evolved strains could hide from the vaccine completely.

The booster vaccine targets the E484K mutation found on the South African variant's spike protein. The alteration is also present on a troublesome strain in Brazil and has been cropping up on various variants in Britain.

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