There is no evidence yet that the South African Covid variant is present in Leicester, according to a city public health boss.
Rob Howard, consultant of public health for Leicester City Council, told LeicestershireLive the authority would be informed if tests showed that the new strain was in the city.
However, the fact it has not been detected yet does not mean it is not here already, he warned.
“We’ve currently not been told that there is any evidence that the South African variant is here or anywhere else in the East Midlands,” he said.
“As I understand it, the South African variant requires full genome sequencing to identify it, it’s not as easy to pick up as the mutation that originated in Kent before Christmas.
“That doesn’t mean that it isn’t here yet though, it could have gone undetected and the only real way to stop it or any variant spreading is to follow the hands, face, space, guidelines.”
The South East England variant, which has in some areas mutated again, is now the dominant version of the virus in Leicester, currently accounting for nearly 70 per cent of cases.
Mr Howard said: “The Kent variant is now the dominant variant in Leicester and it will continue to gradually increase.
“It isn’t increasing as quickly as we thought it might, which could be down to the national lockdown.
“It is easier to identify and around 25-30 per cent of positive tests are sent to the lab so it can be checked if they are the new or old variant. That allows us to keep track.”
Door to door testing is being carried out in areas of the country where the South African variant has been detected.
More than 100 cases of the variant strain have so far been detected in England, of which 11 had no known links to foreign travel.
Ministers are aiming to offer enhanced testing to 80,000 people.
When contacted by LeicestershireLive regarding virus variants, a spokesperson for Public Health England said: “There is no regional breakdown.
“We do not provide further details on case locations to protect the privacy of patients.”