Covid Surge testing in London: Should I be worried?

Tap above to watch Charlene White's interview with Professor Robert West


Surge testing has been extended to Southwark after a case of the South African variant was discovered in the south London borough. It comes after after extra coronavirus testing facilities were set up in two other south London boroughs after dozens of new cases of the South African variant were detected.

So how worried should we be? Professor Robert West, a health psychology expert at UCL and participant in the behavioural science subgroup of SAGE explains.


  • How worried should we be?

I think we should all be very concerned about this issue of variants of concern. That's always been the case. I think the really important thing now is that everyone should get tested.

But more than that, it's not enough to just get tested, it's so important for people to self isolate if there is even the slightest chance they may have this particular variant. These variants are likely to pop up from time to time - perhaps imported, perhaps homegrown.

But when we need to do this surge testing and we need to self isolate if we have symptoms or test positive this is hugely important, that's a responsibility on people. But there is a crucial responsibility on government to support people so they can self isolate and that's been one of the weak links in the chain so far.

  • Is is safe to drink in a busy street now lockdown is easing?

What we are now moving to is a situation where it is a bit more nuanced but we still need people to take more measure to protect themselves and others.

That's something I know people in SAGE are looking are looking at very carefully - how we can support people to make sure they know exactly what the risks are through particular behaviours and situations.

  • What can people do to best protect themselves if they are going out?

Two things that come out strongly are people aren't as aware as they could be of how much safer it is to be outside rather than inside. And the importance of small gatherings rather than large. Those are two things people can do.