Surge testing begins in Hackney after India and South Africa Covid variants detected

14 May 2021, 20:45 | Updated: 14 May 2021, 21:19

Anyone aged over 16 who lives or works in Shoreditch and Dalston should take a Covid-19 PCR test
Anyone aged over 16 who lives or works in Shoreditch and Dalston should take a Covid-19 PCR test. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Surge testing has been deployed in Hackney, London after confirmed cases of the Indian and South African coronavirus variants were detected there.

Anyone aged over 16 who lives or works in Shoreditch and Dalston should take a Covid-19 PCR test, regardless of whether they are showing symptoms.

The confirmed cases are self-isolating and their contacts are being traced.

READ MORE: Over 50s to get fast-track second jab as England's unlocking continues

READ MORE: PM defends not closing UK's borders to India sooner

Enhanced contract tracing will be used where people test positive for a variant of concern.

This sees staff look back for contacts over an extended period to determine the route the infection took.

Anyone with symptoms can book a free test online or over the phone. Anyone without symptoms can visit the Hackney council website for details.

It follows a press conference where Boris Johnson insisted Monday's planned unlocking will continue.

More investigation into the India variant is needed, but there is no evidence that Covid vaccines will not work against it, the Prime Minister said.

However, it is considered more transmissible.

Vaccine jabs will be fast-tracked in order to build up protection among the UK population, Mr Johnson also said.

Over-50s will now be offered their second jab eight weeks after their first - instead of 12 weeks.

The PM told the briefing: "The race between our vaccination programme and the virus may be about to become a great deal tighter, and it's more important than ever therefore that people get the protection of a second dose."

The plans will not delay younger people being offered their first dose, England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty added.

"The prioritisation of second doses will not, we think, delay the situation, the rollout, for people who are in younger ages," he told the briefing.

"We hope to get all the way through to everybody having their first vaccine by the end of July - that is the aim."

Elsewhere in the UK, the army has been tasked with helping the surge testing effort against the variant in the North West of England.

There will be "targeted new activity" in Bolton and Blackburn to accelerate the vaccine rollout too.