‘Urgent’ plea from mayor as at least 20 people in region catch new Covid variant

‘The killer virus has not gone away’

The West of England’s metro mayor is urging people to start wearing masks again in public places as it emerged more than 20 people in the Bristol region have tested positive a new variant of Covid-19.

The new Delta variant, known as AY.4.2, or Delta Plus, is a mutated form of coronavirus which has been slowing increasing in case numbers in the UK, although there is currently no evidence that it spreads more easily.

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It poses no greater risk than any other variant, said Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

But it is being monitored by Downing Street with an analysis of Covid-19 samples showing 23 cases in Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire in the week up to October 9.

It also comes as latest Government figures show the rate of case numbers in the area is much higher than the national average, with Bath and North East Somerset recording 1,079.7 cases per 100,000 people in the week up to October 19.

South Gloucestershire had 931.5 cases per 100,000 and Bristol had 763.7 per 100,000.

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Today (October 25), in response to the surge in cases, the West of England’s Metro Mayor Dan Norris launched a campaign urging people to start wearing masks again in public places.

As well as sending out thousands of posters to businesses, he has written to Health Secretary Sajid Javid asking for extra funding for the West of England.

He said: “There is a looming crisis.

“The last thing I want to see is more death and heartbreak with patients queuing on trolleys as our precious NHS is brought to its knees.

“As the Metro Mayor, with responsibility for jobs, I am also deeply worried that the regional recovery is about to be undermined.”

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He added: “While it is down to us, my message to everyone is very simple. The killer virus has not gone away. Flu season is approaching. I urge everyone who can to please wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Wash your hands. Doing this is the best possible gift we can give our NHS this Christmas.”

The south west of England has seen a spike in cases, with some of the blame being laid on errors at a lab in Wolverhampton which told many people who had the virus that they were Covid-free.

Mr Norris said: “Through no fault of the NHS, local civic leadership, local businesses, or local people, infections continued to spread unchecked within our region.

“Now we face a hugely difficult situation.”

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