Thousands of people in Moss Side and the surrounding areas will be offered Covid-19 tests after a new variant of coronavirus was discovered in the area.

Four cases of a new ‘variant of concern’, which has been officially named E484K, were identified in two households in the area in recent days.

It is related to a strain first detected in Bristol last month, which is related to the UK’s dominant strain identified in Kent towards the end of last year.

Now, at least 10,000 people across homes and businesses will be offered free PCR tests in an effort to contain the virus.

Testing units will be set up for walk-in appointments and home testing kits will also be offered by council workers knocking door-to-door in the affected area.

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The area covered by the new testing initiative includes most of Moss Side and small parts of Whalley Range, Hulme and Fallowfield.

You can view the exact footprint on a map here.

Mobile testing units will be at the following locations:

Our Lady’s RC Church on Raby Street The car park of the Gurdwara Temple on Monton Street

A third site is expected to be confirmed in the coming days.

People living and working within the blue line will be invited for tests

Manchester council was informed by Public Health England on Friday afternoon that four cases of the mutation had been identified via random sampling of normal testing originally carried out in the city last month.

Scientists do not currently have any reason to think it is more resistant to vaccination, although it remains unclear whether it is more transmissible.

Manchester’s public health director David Regan said Public Health England have already successfully contact-traced the four known cases of the new strain and the families in question had followed their advice.

“We’re just making sure,” he said of the mass testing programme.

“We don’t know whether this virus – this mutation E484K – has spread more widely in the area. That’s what we’re trying to find out.

“And we’ll do that through testing as many people as we possibly can.”

Dr Will Welfare, Deputy Director for Health Protection at PHE North West, said: “As part of our testing work, Public Health England (PHE) has identified in the Moss Side area of Manchester a small number of COVID-19 cases of the variant first identified in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

“PHE is working closely with and supporting Manchester City Council, as we monitor the situation closely and ensure all necessary measures are being taken to reduce the spread of the virus.

“The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place – limit the number of people you come into contact with, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus.”

Cllr Bev Craig, Manchester City Council’s executive member for adult health and well-being, said ‘it’s very normal for viruses to mutate’.

“The important thing is that this mutation has been identified and that we’re taking action to stop its spread.

“We are following the public health approach to react to the new variant and we will be working with community groups, local champions, MPs and councillors to ensure as many people as possible know how to get a test so we can understand more about this version of the virus.

“There are no changes to the restrictions in Manchester and if you do have to go out for one of the permitted reasons, please make sure you carry on following the rules on social distancing, and wearing a face covering, as well as washing your hands regularly.”

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