Surge testing in Hounslow after South African variant identified

Residents over the age of 16 who live in and around the Woodlands area of the London Borough of Hounslow will be asked to take a PCR COVID-19 test from tomorrow (Tuesday 4 May), whether they are showing COVID-19 symptoms or not.

This follows the notification to the Council that a single case of the variant of concern first identified in South Africa has been identified in the Borough.

Working in partnership with the NHS, this increased testing is being introduced to quickly identify any further cases of the variant and stop any spread.

Two additional test sites across the Borough have been opened to support residents in getting tested, even if they have no other symptoms. The surge testing programme will go on for ten days until 14 May.

It is important that residents in these areas, who have been contacted, take a PCR test. PCR tests can identify specific variants through genomic sequencing, whereas lateral flow device tests are only able to determine whether a patient has a positive or negative coronavirus status.

Contact tracers carrying appropriate ID will be visiting approximately 2000 households from 4 May with home testing kits for residents living in these postcodes. For those who are not home at the time of visit, information on how residents can access PCR testing from Mobile Testing Units will be provided. The testing units will be at Isleworth train station and Tesco in Osterley from 4 May.

Enhanced contact tracing will be used for individuals testing positive with a variant of concern. This means contact tracers will look back over an extended period to determine where they may have been so that we can contact anyone who needs to be tested.

The information gathered by the Council will help to keep residents safe from a further rise in cases of the South Africa variant and help us stay on track with the government’s roadmap out of national lockdown.

Images above: members of the public receive in-person and drive in PCR tests

Testing is vital to stop variants from spreading, says council

The Director of Public Health for Hounslow, Kelly O’Neill, said: “This additional testing is important as we are looking for new variant cases to stop them spreading. If you live in and around the Woodlands area you will receive a letter that asks you to get tested so please test yourself when we deliver your kit.

Residents living or working in the vicinity of Tesco Osterley and Isleworth train station should get tested at the Mobile Testing Units stationed there. The higher the testing uptake the more assured we can be that the variant is not spreading in our community.

“This is also a reminder that if you live or work in the Borough, please self-isolate if you test positive and continue to follow the guidance to keep yourself and your community safe. Remember: Hands, Face, Space.”

The emergence of variants of the coronavirus is part of the way all viruses evolve. There is currently no evidence to suggest that the vaccine offers less protection against the South Africa variant. There is no link between this case and other cases identified in London.

If further positive cases are found in the Borough the Council will investigate whether this is the South Africa variant of the virus.

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