Surge testing will take place in Brentwood after the South African Covid-19 variant was detected.

Extra testing will be deployed to the CM13 postcode of Brentwood after one positive case of the variant was found in the area.

Extra testing, including door-to-door testing, is being introduced in addition to existing extensive testing and current lockdown rules.

People aged 16 or over living within the CM13 postcode area are strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test when offered, whether they are showing symptoms or not.

Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help understand COVID-19 variants and their spread within these areas.

Dr Mike Gogarty, Director of Public Health, said: “Testing is an integral part of our Covid-19 response in Essex. It is vital that anyone over 16 and living or working in CM13 of Brentwood gets tested so we can better understand and suppress any further spread of the South African variant.

“We know this variant is highly transmissible and so it is important to break the chain of transmission as quickly as possible, which is the aim of surge testing. The quickest way of doing this is for individuals who test positive to self-isolate immediately.

“Do not be alarmed, but even if you are feeling well, I would urge everyone to play their part to keep their community safe. If you receive a letter please book a Covid-19 test as soon as possible.”

Cllr John Spence, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “We absolutely do not want people in this area to be concerned about the rolling out of surge testing. This approach is part of a national routine response to the emergence of new variants that cannot be linked to foreign travel or contact with people who have been abroad.

“This is a very much a precautionary measure which has been carried out in other areas of the country. It will provide us with valuable insights about any potential spread of this particular variant and help us to suppress it.”

People with symptoms should book a test in the usual way, and those without symptoms should visit the Essex testing website for more information.