Extra testing to be deployed after cases of COVID-19 variant identified in Wandsworth

Published: Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Extensive surveillance of Covid-19 has identified a small number of cases of the COVID-19 South African variant in localities across England, including in parts of Wandsworth, that cannot be traced back to international travel. All viruses mutate over time and new variants emerge regularly.

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A small number of cases have been identified in parts of Roehampton and Putney Heath ward, and St Mary’s Park ward in Battersea. All cases are now self-isolating and robust contact tracing has taken place to trace their contacts and ask them to self-isolate. You will receive a letter through your door if you are in one of the affected areas.

Not all households in these SW15 or SW11 postcodes are in the target areas for surge testing. If you do not receive a letter through your mailbox or your address does not come up when you type your postcode into the search box on the surge booking site, then you are not in a target area.

Tracking and controlling variants is very important for ensuring the success of the vaccination programme. There is currently no evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it. 

Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, every person living in these two areas over the age of 16 is strongly encouraged to take a PCR Covid-19 test this week, even if they are not showing symptoms. Facilities offering PCR testing will be deployed, with local authorities encouraging people in the areas to get tested by also providing home test kits. 

Testing will, in combination with measures such as hands-face-space and lockdown restrictions, help to suppress and control the spread of the virus, while enabling a better understanding of the new variant. 

People living in the areas are advised to continue following the national guidance on current lockdown restrictions and adhere to social distancing using the hands-face-space rules, if they do need to leave the house to work, volunteer, buy essential items, or to get a test.

Positive tests will be examined in a laboratory to identify any further spread of the new variant of concern. This will enable a better understanding of the variant and identifying if there are any more cases of this particular strain of the virus in the area. If someone tests positive, they must self-isolate immediately and pass on details on their contacts to NHS Test and Trace.

How to get a test if you live in the affected area and do not have Coronavirus symptoms

You can go to our mobile testing unit in Danebury Avenue car park, Danebury Avenue, Roehampton.

You will need to book an appointment at www.wandsworth.gov.uk/surge-testing.

This webpage also has a postcode checker residents can use to see if their address is included in the test area. If the postcode does not appear in the checker they do not need to get tested

You can book online on someone else’s behalf if they can’t do so themselves. People who are unable to book online, and don’t know someone who can book for them, can call 020 8871 6555 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm for help.

You can also pick up and drop off home testing (PCR) kits at Focus Hall, Minstead Gardens, SW15 4ER in Roehampton between 8am and 4pm Monday to Friday and at the Battersea Sports Centre in Hope Street, SW11 2DA between 7.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday. Both sites will be open on Saturdays and Sundays between10am and 2pm.

No appointment is necessary to collect the home test kits and residents can turn up at either collection point. But please only do this if you have no symptoms of Covid-19.

If you have symptoms you can get tested at one of several symptomatic local test sites across Wandsworth. You must book an appointment at www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or call 119.

Letters will also be delivered to homes in the affected areas giving more information.

The way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant. It will not spread if we avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and reduce your social contacts.

Cllr Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council, said: “I know people may find this news concerning, but I would like to reassure residents in these two areas that variants are common and have been found across London and the UK. Wandsworth is at no more risk than anywhere else.

“Because Covid-19 rates in the borough are now much lower, our testing and track and trace systems can focus on spotting any variants and ensuring quick action is taken. There is also no evidence to suggest the vaccine will not work on this variant.

“However, it is possible they could be more transmissible, which means it could spread more quickly. That is why we are carrying out this additional testing.

“I would urge everyone over the age of 16 in these areas to get tested as soon as possible, even though they don’t have symptoms. This will help us find any cases of the new variant and help stamp it out.

“And, as always, follow the basic lockdown rules and stay at home, wash your hands regularly, keep your distance from others and wear a face covering.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, London Regional Director at Public Health England, said: “The UK has one of the best genomic surveillance systems in the world which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in parts of Wandsworth. I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.

“The most important thing is that people continue to follow the guidance that is in place – limit your number of contacts, wash your hands regularly and thoroughly, keep your distance and cover your face. If you test positive by any method, you must isolate to stop the spread of the virus.”

Roehampton and Putney Heath ward. Not every home in this part of the borough is affected. Please use the postcode checker to confirm if your home is included in the testing area