Surge Covid testing in London as cases of South African variant detected

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Surge Covid Testing In London As Cases Of South African Variant Detected
A queue for surge testing on Clapham Common in south London. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images
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By Mike Bedigan, PA

Surge coronavirus testing is operating across London after further cases of the South African Covid variant were found.

Three boroughs in south London have set up additional testing facilities to process thousands of residents, while a case of the variant was also detected in Barnet, north London.

England's Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed the case in Barnet was unrelated to other clusters, but it had been isolated and the person’s contacts traced.

Coronavirus surge testing in Brockwell Park, south London. Photo: Mike Bedigan/PA

More than half a million adults living in south London boroughs have been offered tests, including 264,000 in Lambeth, 265,000 in Wandsworth, and 14,800 in the Rotherhithe ward of Southwark.

Some 44 confirmed cases of the variant have been found in Lambeth and Wandsworth, with a further 30 probable cases, the DHSC said.

Thousands of people queued up at pop-up testing facilities offering polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on Tuesday and Wednesday, and marshals said they had warned that waiting times could be up to two hours.

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People aged 11 and over who live, work or travel through those areas are being urged to take a PCR test, on top of twice-weekly rapid testing.

Coronavirus surge testing at Brockwell Park. Photo: Mike Bedigan/PA

Barnet Council said although the single case of the variant had been traced, residents in Finchley N3 were “strongly encouraged” to take a PCR test, even if asymptomatic.

Downing Street has insisted the outbreak is being taken “very seriously” and “strong measures” have been put in place to prevent it spreading.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “Additional surge testing and sequencing has been successfully rolled out in a number of targeted locations to help us suppress, control and better understand Covid-19 variants in circulation.

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“Surge testing has been well received by the public in those areas, with thousands of tests completed and thousands of genomes sequenced.”

The BBC reported that the outbreak appears to have been triggered by an individual who travelled from Africa in February.

According to documents seen by the broadcaster, the country involved was not on the red list for mandatory hotel quarantine at that time, but is now.

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