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People who've had Covid 'could still catch South African variant', expert warns

People who have had coronavirus could still catch the new South African variant ripping through the country, an expert has warned.


Health professor Linda Bauld said the public could "potentially" be at risk of catching the strain even if they have previously suffered with Covid-19.


The more contagious South African variant - also known as the B. 1 .351 variant - has been detected in multiple postcodes in Britain in recent days.


This has prompted the Government to move quickly to try and quash the outbreak, with tens of thousands of people to be tested door-to-door from today.


Ms Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, spoke about the new strain's infectious possibilities on BBC Breakfast this morning.


She said: "That is something that is causing concern around the world.


"In Brazil where there is a different variant - which was badly hit in the first wave - there was a lot of reinfection there and that's what also seems to potentially be the case with this variant in South Africa.


"South Africa is a country that has really struggled during this pandemic and we have had rates on reinfection there.


"If someone in the UK has been infected with Sars-CoV-2 and become unwell with Covid-19 in the past, it might be potentially, if they come into contact with this variant, they may become unwell again.


"That's why it's really important to do this surge testing and try and find the cases and support people to self-isolate."


The postcodes where rapid testing will be carried out to contain the outbreak are: Southport (PR9), Walsall (WS2), Ealing (W7), Tottenham (N17), Mitcham (CR4), Broxbourne (EN10), Maidstone (ME15) and Woking (GU21).


Health secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday it was "imperative" people living in affected areas - estimated to be around 80,000 - should stay at home and get a test even if they don't have symptoms.


He said: "There is currently no evidence that suggests this variant is any more severe, but we need to come down hard on it and we will.


"The stay at home message is there for everyone, but in particular in those areas it is absolutely vital that people minimise all social contact, and get a test when the opportunity arises.


"And we're going door-to-door to ensure that people have the chance to get those tests in the postcode areas that we've described."


Some 11 people have tested positive for the new strain who had no links to international travel.


Mr Hancock also told the Downing Street press conference that more than 9.2m people in Britain have now been vaccinated.