Covid surge testing to stop spread of Indian variant deployed in West London

CORONAVIRUS surge testing to stop the spread of the Indian variant has been deployed in West London.

Residents in parts of Harrow, Ealing, Hillingdon and Brent will be advised to take a PCR test even if they do not have any Covid-19 symptoms.

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Local authorities will "shortly confirm" the areas where additional testing will be offered within those boroughs, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

NHS Test and Trace is increasing testing in the four boroughs, following the identification of the B1617.2 strain – which has been designated as a "variant of concern".

Those who tested positive for the variant have been told to self-isolate and their contacts are being identified.

People who have symptoms can book free tests online or by phone, while those without symptoms are advised to visit their local council's website for more information.

Along with increased testing in the boroughs, so-called "enhanced contact tracing" will be used for those who test positive with a variant of concern.

It means tracers will look back over an extended period of time to determine the route of transmission.

Earlier this week, surge testing was rolled out in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, after a number of cases were confirmed to be the Indian variant.

NHS Test and Trace brought in extra testing and genomic sequencing in the Wembrook and Abbey wards.

Surge testing was also rolled out at a Manchester college campus.

Around 17 students in one class tested positive for Covid – with the results sent to confirm if they match the Indian variant.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on May 19 Britain has now recorded almost 3,000 cases of the variant – four times the 520 on May 5.

Cases are predominantly in younger people, public health officials say.

But despite worries about the growing number of cases and calls for a delay in the June 21 lockdown easing stage, a leading epidemiologist said there was "no need to panic" about the highly transmissible strain.

Professor Tim Spector said outbreaks of the variant remain localised and may not translate into a nationwide problem.

He said it is unlikely that the variant will delay further easing of lockdown restrictions.

Prof Spector said: "While the outbreaks remain localised and UK numbers are steady and most cases appear mild, it’s highly unlikely to cause the NHS to be overrun or stop us coming out of lockdown. 

“So no need to panic, but do stay vigilant."

Boris Johnson also said there is no conclusive evidence to suggest a deviation from the lockdown roadmap, considering vaccines appear to work against it.

The Health Secretary said a final decision on the June 21 unlocking would be taken as late as possible – a week before, on June 14.

"Until then, it is just too early to say," said the Cabinet minister.


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