MORE cases of the South African variant of Covid-19 might be found in Southampton, according to a city expert.

Rob Read, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Southampton, said health experts are “probably” going to find other people in the city infected with the South African variant of Covid-19.

It comes as a case of the variant was found in the SO15 5 postcode area.

Local residents will get tested over the next few days.

Health officials said they were unable to determine the origin of the infection but said the Southampton case cannot be traced back to international travel.

However, Professor Read said “it is very unlikely” that the variant in the city occurred “spontaneously”.

He said: “It must have spread from someone else inside the UK. It must have been passed from person to person in the UK and therefore there will be other people who are potentially infected by it. We need to find out who these people are and get them to stay at home”.

He explained that when a single case was identified in other parts of the country, subsequent testing found more people in that area infected with the same variant.

“My gut instinct is that there has been a small chain of transmission in Southampton and I would expect more cases,” Professor Read said.

But he added: “There might only be a few other people in Southampton because we are all in lockdown and that makes it less likely that it will spread extensively in Southampton. We should not be over-concerned. If we were not in lockdown it would be a disaster.”

He said the South African variant is around 30% more infectious than the original one and said that it would be “extremely unwise” to end lockdown while experts try to find out how widespread the South African variant is.

But when asked whether it would be wise to re-open schools in the city at the beginning of next month, he said: “I think in three weeks time we should have a clearer idea of where the variant is contained and if so it would still be possible to re-open.”

He said the best thing residents can do to protect themselves and the community is to follow the rules, stay at home and limit social contacts.

“Remember people not necessarily have symptoms.If they don’t make contact with people infected with the variant they can’t get the virus,” he added.



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