'Targeted' surge testing in Southwark after case of South Africa Covid variant found

14 April 2021, 10:40 | Updated: 14 April 2021, 15:27

Surge testing has been introduced in a part of Southwark
Surge testing has been introduced in a part of Southwark. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Surge testing has been extended to another part of south London after the South Africa Covid variant was found in Southwark.

The case was discovered in the Rotherhithe SE16 ward of Southwark, where targeted door-to-door testing is now taking place.

It comes after the largest amount of surge testing to date began in neighbouring Lambeth and Wandsworth after 44 confirmed cases of the South Africa coronavirus variant were detected.

Southwark Council warned the Covid strain "may be more easily passed between people" but sought to reassure the public that there is "no cause for alarm".

Sangeeta Leahy, the local authority's director of public health, said: “We understand that this could be concerning news, but there is no cause for alarm.

"We are delivering Covid-19 tests to residents in a defined area so that we identify how far, if at all, the variant has spread.

"This variant of COVID-19 may be more easily passed between people, so please take a test if we ask you to by letter."

Read more: 'Largest surge testing yet' starts after SA variant found in south London

Read more: People face two-hour wait for tests after SA strain found in south London

Anybody aged 11 or over who lives, works or travels in these parts of London has been strongly encouraged to take a Covid test regardless of whether they are displaying symptoms.

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

A post on the official Mayor of London Twitter account on Tuesday said: "Additional testing will be taking place in a targeted area within SE16 in Southwark after a confirmed case of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa was found.

"If you’re asked to take a PCR test, it’s vital that you do so, whether you have symptoms or not."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Southwark Council wrote on Twitter: "Following the discovery of a case of the South African variant of COVID-19 in the Rotherhithe ward, Southwark Council is carrying out targeted door-to-door COVID-19 testing in parts of SE16 this week.

Watch: Lambeth Public Health Director explains origin of spike in SA strain

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

Speaking as surge testing was announced for Lambeth and Wandsworth, 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.”

There are fears that if the South African variant spreads rapidly in the UK, some lockdown restrictions could be reversed.

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Covid-19 clinical information network, told the BBC: "If we get rapid spread of the South African or other more resistant variants, it may well be that we are going to have to put the reductions of lockdown into reverse."