PLANS ‘are in place’ to do surge testing if the South African or Brazilian coronavirus variant is detected in Slough.

Last month, the Observer reported the council were preparing plans in case a variant is discovered as the borough’s population “moves and mingles with other areas”, said Sue Foley, public health consultant at the council.

Surge testing is additional community testing to identify asymptomatic cases – those who don’t have coronavirus symptoms – to help reduce transmission by prompting those who test positive to self-isolate.

It also helps scientists and public health officials learn more about the mutated Covid-19 variants.

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At an outbreak engagement board meeting on Tuesday, March 9, Mrs Foley said: “What happens at the moment is that Public Health England informs us [the council] if there is someone who is query about whether they got the variant in the case they tested for.

“We will then be told if we need anything like surge testing, so the plan and the mechanisms are in place should that arise.”

During Mrs Foley’s Covid-19 update, she said the case rate in Slough is falling – but is still the highest in the South East.

In her presentation, Slough has had a weekly rate of 88.9 cases per 100,000 population and a rate for people aged 60 and over at 55.9 per 100,000.

People queue at The Centre in Slough, Berkshire, after a rapid testing hub was opened for local residents during Englands third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus (PA)

People queue at The Centre in Slough, Berkshire, after a rapid testing hub was opened for local residents during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus (PA)

There was ‘a worry’ that cases were to rise again as figures were ‘plateauing’ around early to mid-February – but Mrs Foley said Slough went the right direction and is now near England’s and the South East’s weekly rate.

Sadly, 11 Covid-19 deaths were recorded in the week ending February 26 – but Mrs Foley hopes the number of deaths will ‘wind down’, reflecting the low case rate.

On lateral flow testing – which tests asymptomatic people – 14,000 tests have taken place so far, with two per cent of that, or 280, tested positive.

As the mass vaccination programme ramps us, the council recorded an 82 per cent uptake in the over 65s getting their first jab.

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Councillor Rob Anderson (Lab: Britwell and Northborough), lead member for transport and environmental services, said people shouldn’t feel like “superman” when they get vaccinated.

He said staff at the vaccination centres should remind people to continue to follow the guidance as he was only given a leaflet when he got his first jab at the Salt Hill Park Activity Centre, fearing people may not read the pamphlet and mingle with one another.

Cllr Anderson said: “I realise this is really difficult because the government is putting their entire eggs in the vaccination basket and making it sound like it’s going to be ‘woohoo, in the summer we’re all going to be flying off to the Caribbean to enjoy holidays and things’.

“They make it sound like it’s a guaranteed free pass when it’s not – but I think we can do more to emphasise to people that it’s a level of protection. Not absolute protection.”