A new variant of COVID-19 was found in Bristol recently, making it even more important that we do all we can to control the virus. The ‘Bristol variant’ is a mutation of the more infectious version of the disease first identified in Kent.

As a ‘variant of concern’, the mutation found in several people across our city seems similar to the mutations first found in South Africa. This means it may be more resistant to the vaccine, potentially setting back efforts to get back to some kind of normality. However, I know that our scientists are already working on how to adapt the vaccines – and that this is entirely usual with some vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, which has to be adapted each year. Our scientists are on it.

To try to stamp out this new variant before it spreads further, everyone in particular postcodes is being asked to get a test (check if your postcode is on the list). This is available if you are over the age of 16, living or working in one of the target postcode areas, or in a support bubble with someone living in those areas.

Please, if this applies to you, get tested as soon as possible, and encourage others to do the same – even if you have no symptoms. The aim of this ‘surge testing’ is to identify asymptomatic cases of the virus, help people isolate and help our health service monitor the variant.

The only exception is for people who have had a positive COVID-19 test result within the past 90 days. In this case you should not take a test.

There are two ways to get tested. You can get tested in person at a mobile testing unit (walk in or drive-through) or you can get a kit to test yourself at home at one of the ‘collect and drop’ sites. You can find your nearest mobile testing unit and collect and drop sites here.

I was tested in person yesterday. It was very easy and done in a matter of minutes. It was well organised, appropriately socially-distanced and there was no queue. I had to register the test when I got home but I did that by phone (internet is also available!) and a friendly person helped me through this. I received my (negative) result within 12 hours of the test.

The new variant means we need to be more careful than ever in following all the health guidance. We have been doing this for almost a year now, so it is easy to drop our guards, but please keep washing hands regularly, wearing masks in all confined public spaces and continuing to keep your distance from those outside your bubble.

Let’s work together to drive down the virus, so we can come out of lockdown sooner.

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