Covid Control Plan: Variants of Concern

Covid Control Plan: Variants of Concern

All viruses regularly mutate as they replicate to create new variants. Most mutations have little or no effect and are not a cause for any concern. Some, however, pose an increased risk to public health due to changes in transmissibility, infection severity, ability to evade immune responses or the virus’s susceptibility to treatments.

The UK is a global leader in genome sequencing which, in positive cases, allows the identification of variants of concern. Where a dangerous variant of concern is identified and is likely to pose a real risk to the vaccination programme or public health, the government will take a highly precautionary approach, acting fast to address outbreaks. The government is developing an enhanced toolkit of measures to address variants of concern, including surge PCR testing, enhanced contact tracing, communication, and targeted enforcement. These would need to be delivered locally. 

Development of the Integrated COVID Hub has created opportunity for rapid local identification of variants through genotyping of positive cases identified via PCR testing. Work is being undertaken to establish this capability.

Responding to new variants

We are developing a plan which will identify how local partners will work together with the Department of Health and Social Care, PHE, NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre, should a confirmed case of a COVID-19 variant be identified within the LRF footprint. This plan would need to be deployed at very short notice and will need the input and support of partners, significantly including those within the Northumbria Local Resilience Forum.

To support the implementation of localised surge testing the plan will cover:

  • Notification and activation
  • Command, control, and coordination
  • Staffing and resources
  • Testing processes
  • Communication and Engagement

The overall strategic intent of surge testing is to monitor and suppress transmission, better understand new variants, and thereby prevent further loss of life and serious illness. We anticipate using surge testing only where there is a clear justification in terms of population health protection in doing so.






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