Last reviewed 2 February 2021

From 2 February, in order to combat the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus, which looks to have originated in South Africa, the Government started implementing surge testing in the areas where the variant has been detected.

All individuals over the age of 16 in specified postcodes are being encouraged to get a test for Covid-19 even if they are showing no symptoms of the virus. These postcode areas are::

  • parts of the W7 and W13 post code areas in west London

  • parts of the ME15 postcode area in Kent

  • parts of the WS2 postcode area in Walsall in the West Midlands

  • parts of the GU21 postcode area in Woking, Surrey

  • parts of the PR9 postcode area in Southport

  • the CR4 postcode area around Pollards Hill in south London

  • Tottenham Hale in the N17 postcode area of north London

  • the EN10 postcode area in Broxbourne.

Each area is managing the distribution of large-scale testing individually and those affected are advised to seek further information from their local authority website in order to get a test.

Individuals in these locations are encouraged to adhere to the current lockdown rules in England, with organisations once again being reminded that staff should only be leaving home for work if they cannot reasonably work from home. While the rules have not been amended for the areas currently showing cases of the new South African variant, organisations are encouraged to reconsider where staff can reasonably work from home.

There is no requirement on individuals in these areas to self-isolate until they have their test for Covid-19, unless they are currently doing so in compliance with self-isolation rules. If they receive a positive result, they must self-isolate for a period of 10 days. Until a positive test is received, employees who cannot reasonably work from home can continue to leave their home for work.

There are currently three “variants of concern” that the scientific community have identified, which look to have originated in South Africa, Brazil and the UK. As there are concerns that these variants are more contagious and could affect the impact of the current vaccines, the Government may take similar steps as and when more variants are detected in the country and organisations should be aware of this.