Surge testing is being extended to two new areas of Berkshire (Image: PA)

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Surge testing is being rolled out to two new areas after new cases of the Indian variant of Covid were detected.

Everyone aged over 12 in specific postcode areas of Reading and Wokingham, Berkshire, is being urged to take a test.

Residents of those areas will be offered PCR testing over the next two weeks from Monday after the strain, also known as the Delta variant, was found to be spreading in the community.

Ministers this week said worries about the threat from new variants to the June 21 phase of the roadmap out of lockdown had driven the government's decision to curb international travel lists.

Meradin Peachey, director of public health for Berkshire West, said cases are mainly among young people, with "virtually nobody over 60 or anyone who has been vaccinated".

She told BBC Breakfast: "What's happened in the last couple of weeks, especially in the last week, we've noticed that a lot of cases now coming through we can't link to any travellers, which means we now have community transmission."

The surge testing will target postcodes in Berkshire
(Image: Maureen McLean/REX/Shutterstock)

She said a "big concern" is that continued spread could lead to more mutations.

She added: "If the variant spreads and becomes even more, it may mutate again and the big concern is that vaccines won't work and that's my big concern.

"We really want to get people tested and isolated if they've got the virus, stop the spread so that we can make sure the vaccination programme works."

It comes after the Department of Health announced the launch of additional testing and genomic sequencing in Bradford,West Yorkshire, and Canterbury and Maidstone in Kent after cases of the variant were identified there too.

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On Thursday, Public Health England announced that the strain is now believed to have overtaken the Kent variant to become dominant in the UK, with cases rising 79% from the previous week.

Additional testing is being offered in the RG1 3, RG1 5, RG1 6 and RG1 7 postcodes in Reading and in the Bulmershe and Whitegates, Evendons, Norreys, and Wescott areas of Wokingham, NHS Test and Trace officials said on Saturday.

While Indian variant numbers are rising, the vaccine rollout hit milestones this past week as the number of first doses delivered approaches 40million, and three-quarters of the adult population have now had at least one jab.

People queue for vaccines in Bolton, an Indian variant hotpot that is beginning to reverse its high infection rates
(Image: PA)

The vaccine appears to have "broken the chain" between catching coronavirus and becoming seriously ill, the chief executive of NHS Providers has said.

Chris Hopson said the number of people in hospital with the variant was not increasing "very significantly".

He told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that many of those in hospital in Bolton – which has the highest number of cases of the Indian variant in England – were younger than in previous waves of the pandemic.

Mr Hopson said on Saturday: "The people who came in this time round were actually a lot younger and were a lot less at risk of very serious complication, less at risk of death, and what that means is that they were less demand on critical care.

The vaccine effort underway in Reading, which is being targeted with surge testing from Monday
(Image: Getty Images)

"What we think we can start to say now, based on that experience, is that it does look as though the vaccines have broken the chain between catching Covid-19 and potentially being very, very seriously ill and potentially dying.

"There were very, very few people who have had those double jabs and had been able to have that build-up of protection after those jabs."

Mr Hopson said in the most recent phase of the pandemic the number of people in hospital in Bolton with Covid-19 peaked at 50, compared to 170 in November and 150 in January and February.

"Infection rates have been increasing in a number of different places," he added.

"We know that the hospitalisations are increasing, the rates of people coming into hospital in those areas are rising. But they are not rising very significantly."