THE South African variant of Covid-19 has been identified in Southampton, it has been revealed.

A case of the variant has been found in the SO15 5 area of Southampton. 

Health bosses said it cannot be traced back to international travel.

The case identified has self-isolated and full contact tracing has taken place.

It comes as a case of the variant was identified in Bramley, near Basingstoke, over the weekend.

Southampton City Council is asking every person aged 16 or over living in the SO15 5 postcode area to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test this week, via a SCC-led targeted testing exercise, even if they are not showing symptoms.

The PCR test involves taking a swab of the throat and nose.

A Mobile Testing Unit (MTU) will also be deployed offering PCR testing. 

The city council will issue and collect home test kits to some properties.

The council said a  letter will be delivered to residents tomorrow and the authority is aiming to deliver the testing kits on Thursday 18 February.

Anyone who receives a home testing kit should follow the instructions given to them with that kit, the council said. 

Anyone who lives in the SO15 5 postcode area but does not receive a letter and home testing kit should visit the mobile testing unit at Atherley Bowling Club, Hill Lane SO15 5DB.

The MTU will be open from Thursday 18 February to Saturday 20 February (09.30-15.30). 

Civic chiefs said the risk of transmission from a single South-African variant case is considered to be very low.

"There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccines will not protect against it," the council said. 

Dr Debbie Chase, Director of Public Health at Southampton City Council said:"Contact tracing of the individual has taken place and I would like to reassure people that there is no cause for alarm.

"However, it is important that people aged 16 or over in the identified area take a Covid-19 test as directed.

"While essential travel to work, school, and shopping can still take place in line with government guidance, I would urge everyone in the identified area, and indeed across the city, to stay at home where possible, limit your contact with others, and follow the hands, face, space guidance.”

Councillor Christopher Hammond, leader of the council, said: “I understand that this may be a cause for concern, but the city has responded amazingly to the pandemic and we now need to call on the support of residents in the identified postcode area to step up once more.

"This programme of targeted testing will help our health experts understand more about the spread of the South African variant and hopefully help us get out of lockdown measures as soon as possible.”

NHS bosses said they are ramping up tests in targeted areas. 

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor for NHS Test and Trace said:“As part of our proactive sequencing work, we know that the new variant of Covid-19, first detected in South Africa, has been identified in a number of areas across England.

"A small proportion of these cases have no link to international travel suggesting that there are some cases in the community."

Dr Alison Barnett, Regional Director at Public Health England South East said: “The UK has one of the best genomic systems in the world which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in Southampton.

"I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.

"The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place – limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face.

"If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus”