Surge testing is taking place in parts of London after a rise in people contracting the Covid variant first identified in South Africa.
There have been 44 confirmed cases of the strain, which have been predominantly found in the Wandsworth and Lambeth boroughs, alongside a further 30 suspected cases the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
‘It’s really important people in the local area play their part in stopping any further spread within the local community’
Dozens of people in the area are now self-isolating, with people aged 11 and over who live, work or travel through these areas also being urged to take a Covid-19 PCR test, as well as using twice-weekly rapid testing.
This is the “largest surge testing operation to date” the DHSC has said, and is aimed at suppressing possible new cases of the variant, the first case in the area of which was found in early March.
All those who have tested positive for the Covid variant are now isolating or have completed their isolation. Their contacts have also been traced and asked to isolate.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said the new cluster of cases is “significant” and that 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 one in three 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.”
The surge testing comes as people in England were allowed to return to pubs, restaurants and cafes for outside dining and drinks on Monday (12 April).
However, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS Trusts, said it was still important that people do all they can to prevent the spread of Covid.
Mr Hopson said: “While there is still a way to go with our vaccination programme, we welcome the progress being made, with the jabs due to be rolled out to the over 40s this week and all priority groups now offered a first dose.
“As we return to pub gardens and sports activities and make our way back to non-essential shops, we must continue to do all that we can to prevent the spread of infection and ensure this lockdown will be the last.”