UK health authorities are carrying out the country’s “largest surge testing operation” so far to curb the spread of the South African variant of the CCP virus in parts of South London, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Monday.
Extra testing and genomic sequencing are taking place across parts of South London, mainly in the boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth, where a cluster of cases of the mutant virus have been found since early March.
We are deploying extra surge testing & enhanced contact tracing in two London boroughs where the #COVID19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found.
Everyone in these boroughs should request a PCR test:
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) April 13, 2021
To date, 44 confirmed cases and 30 probable cases have been found, the DHSC said, adding that all identified cases are isolating or have completed their isolation, and their contacts have been traced and asked to isolate.
Dr. Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for NHS Test and Trace, said the cluster of cases in South London is “significant” and urged people in the local area to “play their part in stopping any further spread within the local community.”
The government said everybody aged 11 years and over who resides in, works in, or travels through these boroughs is “strongly encouraged” to take a COVID-19 PCR test, even if they are not showing any symptoms.
Writing on Twitter, London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged anyone living or working in the affected areas to “book a PCR test via your local council website as soon as possible.”
Dr. Hopkins said: “Around one in three people with COVID-19 don’t show any symptoms. By taking part you can protect yourselves and your loved ones and help us identify any possible new cases that would otherwise be missed, preventing further transmission and saving lives.”
Medical experts have warned that the South African variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus is more resistant to antibodies than the old variant and may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.
A study published in February showed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine did not seem to offer protection against mild and moderate cases of the South African variant.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in February that the UK authorities would “come down hard” on the mutant virus to curb its spread in the communities.