A coronavirus testing blitz will be carried out in parts of Essex following a single confirmed case of the South Africa Covid variant.
Surge testing and genomic sequencing will be carried out in the CM13 postcode in Brentwood to stamp out the “variant of concern”.
Read more: Hancock suggests Covid restrictions likely to last past May
People living in the targeted area are strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week whether they are showing symptoms or not, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said in a statement.
Other areas are currently undergoing surge testing as ministers scramble to fend off emerging Covid variants.
London regions such as Lambeth, Ealing and Croydon, alongside commuter areas in Woking, Southampton and Norfolk, will also be urged to take extra Covid tests.
It comes after the government’s virus threats advisory group announced earlier this week that a new Covid variant has been identified in “geographically dispersed” regions across England.
Public Health England (PHE) said it has identified 38 cases of the new strain, which genomic sequencing has shown to feature a specific set of mutations currently referred to as B1525.
The set of mutations includes the E484K spike protein mutation, which is thought to be partially resistant to available vaccines. The E484K mutation is present in the South Africa, Brazil and Bristol strains of coronavirus.
Read more: All UK adults to be offered Covid vaccine by 31 July
However, Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, has insisted that it is unlikely any of the “variants of concern” will become dominantin the UK.
Van-Tam told a Downing Street press conference last week that the UK’s only “immediate threat” remains a new Covid strain first identified in Kent, which is thought to be receptive to available vaccines.