'Largest surge testing yet' starts after South Africa variant found in South London

12 April 2021, 20:37 | Updated: 13 April 2021, 13:28

Surge testing has commenced to try and detect any more cases of the South Africa variant
Surge testing has commenced to try and detect any more cases of the South Africa variant. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

The largest amount of surge testing to date has begun in Wandsworth and Lambeth after 44 confirmed cases of the South Africa coronavirus variant were detected.

Anybody aged 11 or over who lives, works or travels in that area of South London has been strongly encouraged to take a COVID-19 PCR test regardless of if they are showing symptoms.

The move comes as officials found a further 30 probable cases and all identified cases are either isolating or have completed their isolation.

Contacts of those cases have also been asked to isolate.

The variant has concerned experts, who fear vaccines could be less effective against it.

Read more: Pfizer vaccine 'shows 100% protection against South African variant'

An official release said: "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."

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

“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.

“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.”

Read more: Boris Johnson urges millions to 'behave responsibly' as England's lockdown eases

The first case of the variant was detected in March.

Anyone with symptoms should book a free test over the phone or online, while anyone without symptoms should use Wandsworth or Lambeth council websites to do so.