Surge testing deployed in several areas after South African Covid variant detected

6 February 2021, 12:12 | Updated: 6 February 2021, 19:29

An NHS Test and Trace worker hands a person a test kit in a drive through testing centre in Southport, Lancashire
An NHS Test and Trace worker hands a person a test kit in a drive through testing centre in Southport, Lancashire. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Several areas have deployed surge testing sites after cases of the South African coronavirus variant were detected in recent days.

Asymptomatic testing has been launched in the WR3 postcode of Worcestershire as well as PR9 in Sefton and parts of Bristol and South Gloucestershire after cases of the variant with no links to international travel were identified.

Mobile testing units have been set up at pubs, sports centres and other community buildings for adults with no symptoms living within walking distance.

Read more: Boris Johnson warns it is 'still early days' to talk about lifting lockdown

Drive-through testing sites are also planned to open in the coming days and door-to-door testing will also be made available in some areas.

Worcestershire County Council said: "Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, every person over the age of 18, living in the WR3 postcode and some WR9 postcodes, is strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week, even if they are not showing symptoms."

Dr Kathryn Cobain, director for public health in the county, said: "I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant."

Door-to-door and mobile testing began at the start of the month as part of urgent efforts to swab 80,000 people.

This came after 11 cases of the variant were identified in people who had no links to travel - suggesting it may be spreading in communities.

Any positive results as part of surge testing programmes will be sent for genome sequencing to identify the variant - a process which usually takes around a fortnight.

However, Public Health England said the most recent tests rolled out in a number of areas of the country this week will be prioritised in a bid to speed up the process.

Testing of around 10,000 people in Maidstone, Kent, was completed on Thursday night.

In Surrey, testing in Woking was expected to finish on Friday with door-to-door deliveries in Egham and Thorpe due to begin on Saturday.

Sefton Council said efforts to identify the variant in the Norwood area of Southport in Merseyside would continue into the weekend.

Testing in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, is being rolled out for another week until February 12, the council said.

Around 10,300 people in Walsall have been tested so far and some 560 tests had been conducted in the affected areas in Birmingham, the West Midlands Combined Authority was told.

Mobile testing units and home testing kits were also deployed this week to Hanwell, west London and Mitcham, south London.

Testing will also continue into next week in Tottenham, north London.