Omicron variant detection from the Chichester District below national average

Detection of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus by PCR tests sent to labs from the Chichester District has fallen behind the national average.

Not all PCR swabs are being tested for Omicron. Picture: Getty Images
Not all PCR swabs are being tested for Omicron. Picture: Getty Images

Detection of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus by PCR tests sent to labs from the Chichester District has fallen behind the national average new data has shown.

154,121 PCR tests from the Chichester District, between July 1 and November 28, have been sent to labs.

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A quicker way to spot potential Omicron cases is to look for a marker called the ‘S-gene’, which is missing in variants such as Omicron and Alpha but present in Delta cases.

Once identified, swabs showing so-called ‘S-gene dropout’ can then be sent for definitive testing for Omicron.

39,653 out of the 154,121 PCR tests have been sent to labs that study for the ‘S-gene’.

This means that only 25.7 per cent of the tests are being sent to labs looking for the ‘S-Gene’.

This is lower than the national average of 35.7 per cent.

Four UK labs use a Covid testing system which detects the S-gene - at Newcastle, Milton Keynes, Glasgow and Alderley Park in Cheshire.

But only about a third of PCR swabs are sent to one of these sites, rather than other labs, with the proportion varying widely across the country.

Use of these labs is particularly low in the South West and parts of the South East, raising fears that Omicron hotspots could be going undetected.

Omicron is likely to replace Delta as the dominant strain and is set to be responsible for at least half of UK coronavirus cases in the next two to four weeks, according to the UK Health Security Agency (HSA).