More than 50 people without symptoms have tested positive for Covid-19 as part of a mass testing programme in south Manchester where a new variant of the virus has been found.

Surge testing is being carried out in Moss Side and neighbouring areas after four cases of E484K, a mutation of the Kent strain which has spread across the country, were discovered earlier this month.

A similar approach has been adopted in the north of the city this week after the same ‘variant of concern’ was found in parts of Moston and Harpurhey.

Manchester council says those who tested positive for Covid-19 in and around Moss Side showed no symptoms of having coronavirus.

Almost 3,000 tests have been handed to people living in the area, as well as the neighbouring communities of Whalley Range, Hulme and Fallowfield, since February 8.

Councillor Bev Craig, executive member for adult health and wellbeing at Manchester council, told colleagues on Wednesday: “We’ve been able to identify over 50 cases of people without symptoms who have come back positive.

“We’ll be able to share this for genomic testing so we can better understand across the country the implications of this strain.

“The new strain shows that we shouldn’t be letting our guard down. Covid still remains very much a risk that we need to take precautions against.

Councillor Bev Craig
(Image: Manchester City Council)

“We are indebted to our teams on the ground who have been working exceptionally hard to make sure we’re doing everything we can to support the people of Manchester.”

Manchester’s infection rates have fallen to 190 cases per 100,000 people – but it is still higher than the English average of 142 per 100,000.

Covid-19 prevalence amongst the over-60s has also fallen to 170 cases per 100,000, with Coun Craig ‘hopeful’ that the downward trajectory will continue.

But while hospital admissions in Manchester are reducing they will continue to be busy until the end of February.

The meeting also heard that more than 97,000 people in Manchester have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of February 16.

This exceeds the council’s target for 70,000 jabs to be administered in the city by mid-February, with the council working towards delivering 214,000 vaccines by mid-April.

Coun Craig said: “There are some challenges, the vaccination uptake in the city at times differs in terms of geography.

“We are working with some of our particular communities in the city where we know we need to do additional work to make sure they have the information and confidence they need to take up the vaccine.”

For more information on the surge testing in Manchester, visit www.manchester.gov.uk/covidtesting.

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