Friday, 5 Mar 2021

Thousands of teenagers to be tested for Covid-19 as fears grow of a third spike

Teenagers will be screened for c oronavirus through a massive new testing programme amid fears of a third spike.

Emergency teams are being dispatched to secondary schools across the south east of England to swab pupils.

Youths in Essex, Kent and London are to have rapid tests as officials fear the capital is to be plunged into Tier 3.

The drastic move would force pubs and restaurants to close again before Christmas — and potentially wreck New Year plans for millions of people.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock vowed to keep schools open this week as Welsh counterparts told teachers to switch to online learning.

Matt Hancock said "by far" the fastest rise in coronavirus infection rates in the south east was in 11 to 18-year-olds.

Mr Hancock said: “We need to do everything to stop the spread in school-age children now.”

Speaking at a Downing Street press briefing, Mr Hancock said the government was "particularly concerned" about coronavirus cases in parts of London, Kent and Essex, which were rising and were often "already high".

He said the government must not wait until the next review of the tiered restrictions on 16 December but must "take targeted action immediately".

Mr Hancock said "in particular" there was a "very specific rise" among the secondary school age group and specifically in north-east London, while the rate among adults in London was "broadly flat".

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He said: "We know from experience that a sharp rise in case in younger people can lead to a rise among more vulnerable age groups later."

Mobile testing teams will be sent to the seven worst-hit boroughs in London and parts of Essex and Kent.

The crackdown came as Covid deaths in Britain rose by 516. A total of 63,082 people have now died.

There were also 20,964 infections recorded yesterday, the largest daily rise in three weeks, bringing the total to 1,787,783.

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Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said he was very “concerned” at the rocketing rates and urged the nation to be “very, very sensible” to avoid spreading the killer bug.

He said: “A third wave is not inevitable.

“But the way we prevent it is everybody, all of us, coming together and deciding we want to try to stick to the guidance that’s there.”

Currently, the highest infection rates in England are Swale, in Kent, Basildon in Essex, along with Gravesham, Thanet, and Maidstone, all in Kent.

It comes after one London MP said: “London is almost certainly going to Tier 3.”

From left to right, it reads: name of local authority; rate of new cases in the week to December 5; number (in brackets) of new cases recorded in the week to December 5; rate of new cases in the week to November 28; number (in brackets) of new cases recorded in the week to November 28.

The top ten in England is:

  1. Swale, 619.7, (930), 564.4, (847)
  2. Medway, 602.4, (1,678), 529.2, (1,474)
  3. Basildon, 433.8, (812), 302.9, (567)
  4. Gravesham, 423.6, (453), 385.3, (412)
  5. Thanet, 419.9, (596), 464.3, (659)
  6. Maidstone, 409.1, (703), 359.7, (618)
  7. Lincoln, 391.7, (389), 388.7, (386)
  8. Boston, 387.6, (272), 550.1, (386)
  9. Havering, 378.7, (983), 287.4, (746)
  10. Dover, 371.6, (439), 313.2, (370)

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