PUBLIC health and council bosses have stressed the "isolated" case of a South Africa Covid variant in Essex was not linked to international travel. 

The Department of Health today revealed a case had been found in the Brentwood (CM13 postcode area).

As a result, surge testing - increased testing (including door-to-door testing in some areas) and enhanced contact tracing in specific locations.

Here, councils answer a series of questions:

  • How many cases of the South African variant have been identified in this particular area of the CM13 postcode?

To date, there has been one isolated case of the South African Covid-19 variant within a defined part of the CM13 postcode, Brentwood.

  • Do you know where this specific variant originated from in the area?

We do not yet know where or how this particular individual contracted the South African Covid-19 variant, but we do know it is not linked to international travel. We are encouraging everyone living and working in this specific area to remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidance around hands, face, space.

  • What are the chances of the variant having spread?

The whole country has been under national lockdown restrictions for most of the time-period since the case was identified. This has significantly reduced the amount of contact between individuals and therefore the likelihood that they will pass on the virus if they have it.

NHS Track and Trace has worked meticulously since the case was first identified to ensure that all contacts have been traced. The surge testing will help to supplement this work and support us in understanding the virus, including if it has spread any further.

  • Will additional Covid-19 restrictions be introduced in this area?

No additional Covid-19 restrictions will be introduced in this area. Current national Covid-19 restrictions will remain in place.

  • Is the South African Covid-19 variant more dangerous than other variants?

While there is currently no evidence to suggest the South African Covid-19 variant is more dangerous than other variants, it has been proven to be more transmissible. This means it is more easily passed from person to person and so it is vital that we stop the spread as soon as possible to prevent anyone from becoming ill. There is some evidence that some vaccines may be less effective in protecting against milder Covid-19 disease caused by this variant.

  • Where can people go and get tested?

If you DO have coronavirus symptoms and have not yet taken a test, you should book a home PCR test at or via the NHS COVID-19 app.
  If you DO NOT have coronavirus symptoms, you can either:

Visit one of the Mobile Testing Units (MTU) for a PCR test to be carried out, located at:  

  • Shenfield High School (car park), Alexander Lane, Shenfield, Brentwood CM15 8RY
  • Thorndon Country Park (South car park), A128 Brentwood Road, West Horndon, Brentwood CM13 3LW
  • Adult Community Learning (car park), Poplar Drive, Hutton, Brentwood, CM13 1BD
  • Brentwood Centre (car park), Doddinghurst Road, Brentwood, CM15 9NN

All sites are open between 09:00 – 15:00, 7 days per week. 

Bookings for the MTUs must be made via the national system - Same day appointments booked online are available until 3pm each day. Bookings for the following day open at 8pm each day. Individuals can also call 119 to book an appointment.

Alternatively, pick up a home PCR Covid-19 test from Adult Community Learning, Poplar Drive, Hutton, Brentwood, CM13 1BD

This site is open Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, and Sat-Sun 8am-5pm.

A spokesman said: "Please ensure you carry out the test as soon as possible, following the instructions in the test kit and return the completed test to the same location you picked it up from as soon as possible."

If you have tested positive for Covid-19 in past 90 days and you have not had any new Covid-19 symptoms since completing your self-isolation period, you do not need to be tested as part of this surge testing programme.

  • Is there a risk of potentially encouraging thousands of people to pick up tests from the same location at the same time?

We have introduced additional testing capacity in the area specifically to meet increased demand while surge testing takes place. This includes four Mobile Testing Units in the area and a designated pick-up and drop-off point. We are confident that the capacity we have introduced within the local community will safely meet the level of demand.

  • Do residents in this area have to take part in the surge testing?

We strongly recommend that everyone living and working within CM13 takes part. This will help us to better identify any other cases involving the South African variant and stop it from spreading further.

  • Do individuals who have had the Covid-19 vaccine need to take part in surge testing?

Yes. While the vaccine is highly effective and will prevent people from getting seriously ill, it is not clear whether it stops transmission of the virus. This means that people can still carry the virus without showing any symptoms and can pass it on to others.