SHROPSHIRE Council insists it has put plans in place to react quickly if a new variant starts to spread in the county.

In light of the situation in other parts of the UK where the Indian variant – B.1.617.2 – is spreading rapidly, the council has been working closely with Public Health England (PHE) to prepare for any new variants of concern.

There have been two reported cases in Shropshire to date, linked to clusters outside of the county, and the people involved followed the guidance and self-isolated immediately.

Shropshire Council’s director of public health, Rachel Robinson, said: "As a county we’ve been working very closely with our colleagues to prepare for any variants of concern.

"We have put in place strong cross-system structures to address an outbreak, including the capacity to undertake surge testing if necessary.

"We are also learning from other counties which have already had to respond.

"We currently have a low number of Covid-19 cases in Shropshire but this doesn’t mean we should relax and let our guard down. We know that cases of the Indian variant is increasing rapidly.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have been very active in targeting and containing the virus and this approach continues to be very important."

PHE data shows cases of the variant have risen in the UK by 3,535 to 6,959; however, that there are small numbers of cases of the variant in most parts of the country.

In response, the council’s public health department has put in place cross-system measures to address a potential outbreak and is prepared to carry out surge testing if needed.

Last week, council officers from a range of departments joined forces with partners from the fire service, police and NHS to carry out a multi-organisational training exercise.

The exercise was designed to map out exactly how the council and its partners, including schools and businesses, would respond to an outbreak.

It is believed that the variant is more transmissible than the existing dominant strain in the UK.

Councillor Dean Carroll, portfolio holder for public health said: "Shropshire residents have stepped up to play their part to stop the spread of coronavirus – but it’s not over yet.

"While the situation in Shropshire is stable at the moment, you only have to look at other parts of the UK to see how serious the Indian variant is.

"Plans are in place if we do need to respond to an outbreak, but we all must continue to play our part and keep our communities safe."