Surge tests ordered for ‘significant’ outbreak of covid variant

The euphoria surrounding the re-opening of shops and pubs yesterday after the part-lifting of the coronavirus lockdown could be short-lived, as health authorities last night announced that a new round of surge testing was taking place after more than 70 cases of the South African variant of covid-19 were detected in Lambeth and Wandsworth.

The outbreak of the South African variant was described as “significant”, after 44 confirmed and 30 probable cases were identified.

There had been surge testing conducted in both south London boroughs, including in parts of Streatham, in early February.

The South African variant cases have been found in Lambeth and Wandsworth

On that occasion, one case of the South African variant was traced to a person living in South Norwood.

As this new testing regime begins, there’s justifiable concerns that those measures were not enough to contain the variant. The Department of Health and Social Care said it is the “largest surge testing operation to date”.

They also suggested that the surge testing could extend across other parts of south London, with testing applied to those who work in or travel through the areas.

Positive results from PCR testing will be sent for genomic sequencing at specialist labs.

Figures for the whole of the UK yesterday showed more than 3,500 new cases of coronavirus reported, a figure 50 per cent higher than the seven-day average.

In the statement from DHSC last night, they said, “NHS Test and Trace is providing additional testing and genomic sequencing across parts of south London, predominantly the boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth, where 44 confirmed cases, and 30 probable cases, of the variant first identified in South Africa have been found.

“All identified cases are isolating or have completed their isolation, and their contacts have been traced and asked to isolate.

“Everybody aged 11 years and over who resides in, works in or travels through these boroughs is strongly encouraged to take a covid-19 PCR test, whether they are showing symptoms or not.

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“This is the largest surge testing operation to date and aims to help control and suppress any possible new cases of the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa.

“People with symptoms should book a free test online or by phone so they can get tested at a testing site or have a testing kit sent to them at home. Those without symptoms should visit the Lambeth or Wandsworth local authority website for more information.

Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said, “The cluster of cases of the variant first identified in South Africa found in parts of south London, predominantly the Lambeth and Wandsworth areas is significant.

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“It’s really important people in the local area play their part in stopping any further spread within the local community.

“Around 1 in 3 people with covid-19 don’t show any symptoms. By taking part you can protect yourselves and your loved ones and help us identify any possible new cases that would otherwise be missed, preventing further transmission and saving lives.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, urged people in the affected boroughs to get tested “as soon as possible”.

He said, “It’s vital that we do everything we can to control this variant by taking a test and following the rules.”

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