Londoners urged to take part in surge testing as flights continue to arrive from India

Tens of thousands of Londoners are being urged to take part in surge testing in parts of the capital which are considered hotspots for the new Indian Covid variant.

So far the attention has mainly been on the North West of England, with health chiefs concentrating on Burnley, but their attention has also now also focused on Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Kirklees and North Tyneside and the B.1.617.2 mutation has now been found in parts of London as well.

On Monday The Chiswick Calendar reported that the variant had been found in Hounslow as well as Ealing, Hillingdon, Hackney, Croydon and Bromley. Kelly O’Neill, Director of Public Health in Hounslow, told us:

“Because there is a lag in identifying cases due to the genotyping step, the data we have is out of date in terms of numbers, so there will be more variant cases circulating than we are aware of”.

On Wednesday the Secretary of State announced that surge testing and increased vaccination would be taking place in LB Hounslow. Professor Kevin Fenton, London Regional Director for Public Health England, said:

“In London, we are continuing with measures to contain cases of the variant of concern first identified in India which have been detected throughout the city, including targeted testing and enhanced contact tracing”.

Extra surge testing, tracing and isolation support measures are to be deployed “at pace” in these areas the Government says.

Indian flights still coming in to Heathrow

There were 161 confirmed Covid cases (all variants) in Hounslow in the week to May 14, up 52 (47.7 per cent on the previous week), with a seven-day rate of 59.3 infections per 100,000 people, the highest level in the capital.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday that there had been 2,967 cases of Indian variant across the UK, mainly in the North West of England, with some in London. The figure had increased by about a quarter in just two days from Monday.

Last week research from Public Health England last week showed 400 cases of the Indian strain had been detected in London among about 1,500 cases nationally.

Hounslow and Ealing have large South Asian populations, LB Hounslow 34.4 Asian and Ealing 30% the overall population of the borough. The vast majority of the 400 cases of the Indian strain in London are understood to be in people who have travelled internationally or their family or close contacts.

There is also the impact of Heathrow to consider. LBC reported on Monday that 110 direct flights from India had landed in the UK in the three and a half weeks since it had been placed on the red list for travel. There is a flight due to arrive at Heathrow at 18.45 from Delhi today.

Hounslow has the fastest growing Covid rate in London. Hounslow’s Director of Public Health Kelly O’Neill said in January, before the Indian variant became an issue, that she thought the lack of airport screening may have contributed to Hounslow’s Covid rate of infection.

“Proximity to the airport has probably contributed to this” she said.

“I think we’ve missed a trick nationally with airport entry and we are still in a position where airport screening is not as robust as it needs to be”.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar website

See also: Indian variant in Hounslow and Ealing

See also: Surge testing announced for Hounslow

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