A mass testing programme was rolled out this morning in the CR4 postcode area in a determined effort to locate people with a highly infectious variant of coronavirus.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told a televised national briefing last night that he wants to “come down hard” on the variant.
The “surge testing” is being deployed because of fears that the more infectious South African variant may be spreading in communities in England.
Siobhain McDonagh, the MP for Mitcham and Morden, tweeted last night, “I was told this afternoon that someone in the Pollards Hill area tested positive for the South African variant of coronavirus.
“I understand that they isolated and are recovering well.
“As a result of this discovery, it is important that everybody is protected and that is why testing will be made available to everyone.”
The enhanced testing programme aims to reach 80,000 people in parts of Surrey, London, Kent, Walsall, Southport and Hertfordshire in a bid to curb the variant’s spread.
Each resident visited will be requested to take a PCR Covid test – which can provide swift results on the same day – whether they have symptoms or not.
McDonagh said that a mobile testing centre will be established within the next few days “at a central location in the Pollards Hill area”.
She wrote, “For people who would prefer it, there will be hand-delivered tests and these will also be collected the same day.”
In all, 10,000 tests are expected to be carried out in the CR4 area. “In order to ensure that everybody has the confidence to take a test, I will be arguing that there is financial assistance to everyone who tests positive or who needs to self-isolate,” the MP wrote.
There have been 11 cases of the variant identified across England with no links to travel to South Africa.
Two positive cases of the strain – which have been worrying scientists – have been identified in people in Surrey with no links to travel or previous contact with those affected.
Hancock said “finding every case” of the variant was the goal, with everyone over 16 in the targeted areas urged to take a test, whether they have symptoms or not.
Gene sequencing has so far uncovered 105 cases of the variant, which like the variant previously discovered in Kent is thought to be more contagious although not more deadly.
In most of the areas, home testing kits are being delivered and collected.
Hancock also said it was “absolutely vital” that people in these areas where cases of the variant had been identified minimise all social contact.
Mass testing has previously been used in Liverpool, where more than 200,000 people were tested in November, detecting 800 asymptomatic cases. It prompted plans to extend the testing programme to 67 areas of England.
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