The Indian variant, which has been classified by Public Health England as a ‘variant of concern’, has been linked to coronavirus cases in the Sefton area.
Sefton has seen an increase in Covid-19 cases in recent days – with many cases concentrated in the Formby area.
The outbreak has seen a number of schools sending students home as well as a recreation center and pub in the area forced to close temporarily.
Council chief Ian Maher spoke today about the situation in the region and sought to allay fears.
He said: ‘We understand that although it has been detected locally, this variant does not appear to affect people more seriously or inhibit the effectiveness of vaccines currently being rolled out across the UK.
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“Plus, she doesn’t appear to be more contagious than the Kent variant, which is now the dominant strain in Britain.
“The Sefton Council will work closely with Public Health England and other partners to provide all the local knowledge and expertise necessary to support any work needed to identify and contain the variant.
“Vaccination, testing and having all of us follow the rules of distance, face protection and hand washing are still key to preventing the spread of COVID.
He added: “It is essential that people go to receive their first and second vaccines when offered to them. You can now get the COVID-19 vaccine if you are 40 or older or if you are 40e the birthday is between now and July 1st. You can make an appointment online or by phone.
“And whether or not we are vaccinated, it is always important that those of us who go to work or away from home regularly continue to take the rapid tests, which are free and widely available throughout the borough,” twice a week.
With some groups of students having been sent home from Sefton schools this week, Cllr Maher also stressed the importance of high school students and staff wearing face masks in schools.
He said, “Just like in high schools, we all need to remember the need to wear masks when we go to shops and other places and use public transportation.
“We all need to be careful in indoor spaces and stick closely to the 2m distance to protect ourselves and those around us, including our friends and family, who may be vulnerable to the severe effects of COVID-19 . “
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Indian variant is currently the UK’s number one covid risk.
He said he was “worried” about the variant amid reports that it was becoming more prominent in the UK and could spread faster than the Kent variant.
Scientists say that in England, in the two weeks leading up to May 1, the proportion of cases of Indian variants rose from 1% to 11% of Covid-19 infections.
But while saying he was ‘worried’ about the spread of the variant in the UK, Mr Hancock said the country was in a much better position to deal with it because of the successful vaccination program.
Sefton has two SMART testing sites for people without symptoms, at Bootle Leisure Center and Splash World in Southport, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
The rapid home test kits can be picked up at Bootle Town Hall and Splash World in Southport from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. No appointment is necessary.