INDIAN VARIANT: The Indian variant of coronavirus is being reported in the North East
Two parts of the North East have now confirmed cases of the Indian coronavirus variant.
It emerged on Wednesday afternoon that a Tynemouth bar had been closed after a Covid outbreak among staff.
North Tyneside Council confirmed that one of the cases linked to Allard’s Lounge was identified as the Indian variant of concern, with all customers who visited the venue between April 23 and May 3 urged to get a Covid test.
The fast-spreading strain of the virus has now also been confirmed in Newcastle. Public health bosses in the city confirmed they have detected the Indian variant, but have not said where.
Newcastle City Council said work was ongoing to trace those affected, but that it is controlled and not thought to be linked to a hospitality venue like the North Tyneside case is. The authority said that “small localised outbreaks” had caused the Covid infection rate in Newcastle to increase slightly this week, now standing at 44 new weekly cases per 100,000 people – a level that is noticeably higher than other North East areas.
A council spokesperson said: “General circulation of Covid-19 remains low in the city, largely thanks to the compliance of residents with restrictions and the early impact we are seeing from the vaccination programme.
“Infection rates for Newcastle have risen slightly this week as a result of small localised outbreaks which we are working with partner organisations and the settings concerned to bring under control and reduce the risk of wider community outbreaks.
“We are seeing cases of the Indian variant of concern and other variants across the North East including among the small increase in confirmed cases in Newcastle.
“As with any confirmed case of the virus, contact tracing has taken place with people entering self-isolation as a result. We are also working to ensure Covid-19 safety measures are reinforced and maintained not only as a result of these outbreaks, but across Newcastle.
“The imminent relaxation of restrictions has generated positivity and residents are rightly excited to once again enjoy extended freedoms. However, these small outbreaks demonstrate that the virus has not gone away and we must all take responsibility to protect ourselves and others.
“Even with restrictions easing we should all continue to maintain the Hands, Face, Space, Fresh Air guidance, come forward for vaccinations when appropriate, self-isolate and book a test if we develop symptoms, and regularly participate in rapid-turnaround testing to reduce our chances of catching and spreading the virus further.
“And remember, even if you have had your first dose of vaccine you are not fully protected so you should continue to follow the guidance to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community.”
Spikes in Covid cases in areas like Bolton caused by the arrival of the Indian variant have sparked concerns about the indoor reopening of pubs and restaurants, as well as other businesses, from May 17.
North Tyneside public health director Wendy Burke urged anyone who had recently been to Allard’s before it shut on May 3 to get tested, in a bid to prevent any new outbreaks before lockdown restrictions are further lifted next Monday.
She said: “Coronavirus levels in the borough and the wider region are the lowest they’ve been since September and we have one of the lowest rates in the country.
“We want to ensure we keep it that way and especially as we move to the next stage of the roadmap, with restrictions set to ease again on May 17 and allow for indoor mixing.
“This additional testing is really important to help to control the virus, reduce transmission and help North Tyneside return to normal.”
Article written by Daniel Holland, Local Democracy Reporter
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