Covid: Surge testing hits south London affecting more than 650,000 people

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Extra coronavirus testing facilities are being set up in two south London boroughs after dozens of new cases of the South African variant were detected.

Lambeth Council said it is “vital” that residents get a test, whether asymptomatic or not, to help control the spread of the virus.

Some 44 confirmed cases of the variant have been found predominantly in the borough, as well as in neighbouring Wandsworth, with a further 30 probable cases identified, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

People aged 11 and over who live, work or travel through those areas are being urged to take a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, on top of using twice-weekly rapid testing.

Lambeth Council said eight additional testing sites have opened across the borough from Monday and facilities are also available in Wandsworth.

It added that for those who do test positive a “comprehensive” self-isolation support service is available which includes payments of up to £500 for residents on low incomes.

The DHSC said the operation is the “largest surge testing operation to date”, aimed at suppressing any possible new cases of the variant, with positive results from PCR testing to be sent for genomic sequencing at specialist labs.

It said all those who have tested positive for the variant, with the first case in the area being found in early March, are isolating or have completed their isolation, and their contacts have been traced and asked to isolate.

Director of public health for Lambeth Ruth Hutt said: “It is vital that all Lambeth residents take an asymptomatic PCR test so that we can identify all cases in order to stop the spread of this variant of concern.

“Alongside taking a PCR test, we are asking everyone who lives and works in the borough to continue following the guidance in place to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“That includes limiting your contacts with other people, washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, keeping your distance and covering your face.

“If you test positive for Covid-19 via a PCR test or rapid lateral flow test it is crucial that you self-isolate so you don’t pass on the virus, and support is available to help you do that.”