People in part of Essex are being urged to take a coronavirus test when offered, after the South African variant was discovered there.

It is the latest deployment of surge testing in England in a bid to control and suppress the potential spread of virus variants.

Targeted testing will be offered to residents in the CM13 postcode in Brentwood after one case of the South African variant was detected.

People are “strongly encouraged” to accept the offer of a test, whether or not they have symptoms of the virus.

This is what is known about the South African variant. 

It was first detected in South Africa and first sequenced in the UK in December 2020.

This variant carries the E484K mutation which experts suggest may be better at evading the human immune response.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is effective against this variant, according to a study from the US.

However, a separate study found that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab was not effective at preventing mild illness caused by the more infectious South African mutation.

But the jab will protect against deaths and severe disease amid the spread of the South African variant, according to researchers.

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England’s deputy chief medical officer has said this strain is unlikely to become dominant in the UK over the coming months.

A Public Health spokesman said: “The variant first identified in South Africa is called VOC202012/02 and appears to have emerged around the same time as the variant originating in the UK.

“It has also been seen in a number of other countries.

“Laboratory tests have shown that the mutation may be able to escape the body’s antibodies to some extent and is therefore of potential public health concern, so it’s one we’re monitoring closely.

“All cases with this mutation are currently being followed-up closely and monitored in the UK.

“Additional surge testing and sequencing is being deployed in a number of locations where the Covid variant first identified in South Africa has been found.”

The UK Government imposed a ban on direct flights from South Africa and restrictions on flights to the country in order to reduce the number of people infected with the variant entering the UK.

There are now 33 countries on the UK’s travel ‘red list,’ which is being enforced to stop the spread of variants.