Following an announcement by the Department of Health and Social Care, yesterday, Lambeth council is asking residents living in specific parts of the south eastern area of the borough (i.e. the area in and around Knight’s Hill ward, but also including small parts of West Norwood and some streets in Streatham) - outlined in red on the map below, to get a Covid-19 test, whether they have symptoms or not, after the South African strain of the virus was detected in the local area.
It is important to stress that this is an isolated case – it is not an outbreak.
The case was not linked to travel to South Africa, so the public health team are now working intensively with the Department of Health and Social Care to detect if there are more cases of this variant in the local area, as part of a ‘surge testing’ programme. You may have seen information on the media recently, where similar exercises have been carried out in places in London such as Ealing, Haringey and Merton.
Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, every household living in the specific area over the age of 16 will be strongly encouraged to take a PCR Covid-19 test over the next week or two, even if they are not showing symptoms. There will be 2 Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) in the area, which will be deployed to offer PCR testing, with teams working together to deliver thousands of home testing kits to local residents.
There is currently no hard evidence to suggest this variant is more serious than others, or that the existing approved regulated vaccines would not protect against it. In fact, the companies who have developed the three currently approved vaccines are already working to find out how they may need to be adapted to offer very high protection against the emerging variants of Covid-19. Just like the annual flu jab, this would mean tweaks to the vaccine would require an annual injection.
In combination with following the lockdown restrictions and continuing to wash hands, keeping socially distanced from others and wearing face coverings, this local testing of about 10,000 people in the area will help to suppress and control the spread of the virus, while enabling a better understanding of the new variant.
Anyone living in the area who needs to leave home to attend work, school/childcare or undertake caring responsibilities can still do so in line with the current lockdown rules. This includes attending any healthcare appointments.
Only a very small number of cases of the South African variant have been detected in London. Positive tests will be tracked by Public Health England to identify any further spread of the new variant, enabling a better understanding of the variant itself and identifying if there are any more cases of this particular strand of the virus in the area.
If someone tests positive, they must self-isolate immediately and pass on details of anyone they have been in contact with to NHS Test and Trace when requested.
This is concerning news for all of us– especially if you live in the area, live very nearby or if you have visited recently. The aim of Project Eagle is to urgently detect any cases and help crack down on the new variant.
A map and postcode look up of the affected areas along with further details on this urgent programme of work can be found on the council’s main website, here: www.lambeth.gov.uk/enhancedtesting