Ealing Council is asking residents living and working in parts of Hanwell and West Ealing to get a COVID-19 test, whether they have symptoms or not, after a local resident tested positive for the South African strain of the virus.
The individual is understood to have been tested for the virus at the end of December despite not having travelled to South Africa or been in contact with anyone else who had. The person, who is not being identified, is being praised for following all public health guidance and self-isolating. They have now made a full recovery.
Although, like the new UK variant, there is some evidence that the South African variant can be passed on more easily, the government has told us that there is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.
National test and trace officials discovered that several areas of the UK had the strain after randomly sampling 5% of all positive tests. Public health teams expect that in all of these cases there are likely to be other people with this strain of the virus. Tests that determine which strain of virus people have contracted take a few weeks to complete.
News that someone had this strain of the virus was shared with the council last week. Since then, the council has been working with government officials and colleagues in Public Health England to set up further testing in the borough.
Testing local people for the strain
The council is asking all residents over the age of 16 living or working in the area that borders Hanwell and West Ealing town centres and close by, who do not have symptoms, to take a COVID-19 test.
This area includes approximately 5,500 households in the W7 and W13 areas. People who live near to the area and are worried can also book a test.
The aim is to test as many people as possible living in the area at least once in the next couple of weeks. The tests will be laboratory analysed to understand if this new COVID-19 strain is present.
This information will help NHS Test and Trace find new cases and supress it to better protect the local community. This activity will also help to inform the national response in other areas.
To support this testing, a walk-through mobile testing unit for people without symptoms has been set up at Dean Gardens car park in Leeland Terrace, West Ealing, W13 9DA to make testing as convenient as possible. The unit will be in place from today (Monday, 1 February).
To book a test people should do it online on the council’s website.
The link will take you to a form and you should click it to book a test at the variant testing centre at Dean Garden’s car park. Anyone with queries about the testing that is taking place can call the Ealing Together helpline on 020 8825 7170.
Home testing kits being delivered
Over the coming week, free home tests will also be delivered to every household in the identified area. Residents of all ages will be asked to complete the test and then they will be collected again. So, you do not need to post the kits back. No payment will be asked for delivery or collection of these kits. If you get a positive result, you will be contacted by the national test and trace service and asked to self-isolate for 10 days.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable or shielding, you should wait for the delivery of the home test kits, and do not attend the Dean Gardens car park testing unit.
The council is planning to hold a public meeting for residents later this week. Further details will be shared when available.
If you have symptoms
If you have symptoms (new continuous cough, high temperature, loss of taste or smell) it is essential that, wherever you live, you should get tested as normal and self-isolate while awaiting the results. The borough has testing sites for people with symptoms which can be booked by calling NHS 119 or online on the government’s website.
Do not book at the Dean Gardens car park walk-in testing centre, because this is only for people who do not have symptoms to get a test.
‘Protect loved ones and the wider community’
Councillor Julian Bell, leader of Ealing Council, said: “I know people will be concerned to hear that a member of our community had the South African strain of the virus last month. I am very pleased that they have made a full recovery and want to thank them for staying at home during the self-isolation period which should have helped to lessen the spread.
“I urge people living or working in the area with or without symptoms to get tested so that any others with this variant can be identified to protect them, their loved ones and the wider community.
“The government has told us that there is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.
“Other than getting tested or other essential reasons, all residents are urged to follow the 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 systems in the world which has allowed us to detect the variant originating in South Africa here in London. 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 national lockdown guidance that is in place – stay at home as much as possible, 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.”
Check if you are in the identified area with this postcode finder.