A mass testing programme in south London to curb the spread of the South African variant of Covid-19 will be limited to a small CR4 postcode area around Pollards Hill which is part of Merton Borough rather than Croydon.
The government is urging everyone in the area over the age of 16 to get tested, whether they show symptoms or not.
Additional mobile testing units, door-to-door testing and home testing kits are being deployed. Positive tests will be genomically sequenced to identify any further spread of the South African variant.
Merton Council has announced that their health team will be going door-to-door, offering to provide home test kits and advice on how to administer them from February 4.
For people who do not have symptoms, home testing kits can be picked up and dropped off at New Horizons Centre, CR4 1LT, also from February 4 onwards. The centre opens from 8:30am to 6pm, seven days a week.
A mobile testing unit has also been set up at Pollards Hill library car park and will be opened from Wednesday morning. Testing will take place from 8am to 3pm every day.
The government “messed up again”
Online reactions to the arrival of the new variant vary from the general acceptance, sometimes coated with humour, to discontent towards the government.
Testing will take place in seven other areas:
- London – W7 (Ealing) and N17 (Haringey)
- West Midlands – WS2 (Walsall)
- East of England – EN10 (Broxbourne)
- South East – ME15 (Maidstone) and GU21 (Guildford)
- North West – PR9 (Southport)
More than 100 cases
In total, Public Health England has identified 105 cases of the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa in late December, 11 which cannot be traced to international travel.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on February 1, Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace, said that there was currently no evidence to suggest the variant was more severe than others circulating in the UK.
She said that there was no proof that the registered cases of the South African variant were linked, and that it was more likely that asymptomatic carriers contributed to the cases.
She added that scientists were already working on a “tweaked vaccine” and determining what particularly common mutations it should respond to. However, this wouldn’t mean that the vaccination process would have to start again – instead, it would more likely to require a booster shot.
More than 9.2 million people across the UK have been vaccinated, and almost 9 in 10 of all people over 80 years old have received at least one shot.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said that the new variant was a “stark reminder” that the fight against this virus was not over yet.
He said: “It is absolutely vital that people minimize all social contact and get a test when the opportunity arises, and we’re going door-to-door to ensure that people have the chance to get those tests.”