People face two-hour wait for Covid tests after South Africa variant found in South London

13 April 2021, 15:42

People queuing for Covid-19 tests in Lambeth
People queuing for Covid-19 tests in Lambeth. Picture: Charlotte Lynch

By Harriet Whitehead

People queuing for Covid-19 surge testing at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton say they have been faced with wait times of more than two hours.

This comes as a large surge testing operation was started in Wandsworth and Lambeth after 44 confirmed cases of the South Africa coronavirus variant were alongside a further 30 probable cases.

Anybody aged 11 or over who lives, works or travels in that area of South London has been strongly encouraged to take a test, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms or not.

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

Variants have concerned experts, who fear vaccines could be less effective against certain ones.

Lambeth Council's public health director Ruth Hutt said she is delighted at the response of people turning up for testing, and said the council will be running these testing sites for at least two weeks.

Ms Hutt told LBC: "We expected and hoped people would respond to the call to action to get tested but I think we were more thinking about how do we persuade people to come out and get tested.

"We're delighted at the response and we will be running these testing sites for at least two weeks, so if people haven't been able to get into these testings sites today, that's OK. There'll be plenty of opportunity."

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She also explained where the origin of this outbreak may have started: "There was a care home where there was a contained outbreak of this strain, and that accounts for a significant number of the cases that you reported earlier.

"Those cases got picked up because we do regular testing in the care home, so every care home will have a weekly testing regime for staff and a monthly testing regime for residents - and through those test we actually picked up those Covid cases.

"It does show some of the screening we've got in place is working really effectively to pick up cases early."

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said the cluster of cases is "significant".

"It's really important people in the local area play their part in stopping any further spread within the local community," she said.

"PCR testing is now available for all and I would strongly encourage everyone, whether they live, work or travel through the boroughs, to get tested even if they don't have any symptoms of coronavirus."