SURGE testing is to begin in parts of south London after 44 cases of the South African Covid-19 variant were found.
People living and working in Wandsworth and Lambeth are being urged to get tested after "significant" reports of the mutated virus, in the largest surge testing operation to date.
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Additional testing and genomic sequencing will take place predominantly in these boroughs, where 44 confirmed cases and 30 probable cases of the variant first identified in South Africa were found.
The variant is deemed to be more transmissible – potentially up to 50 per cent more infectious.
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 is "significant".
"It's really important people in the local area play their part in stopping any further spread within the local community," she said.
"PCR testing is now available for all and I would strongly encourage everyone, whether they live, work or travel through the boroughs, to get tested even if they don't have any symptoms of coronavirus.
"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."
People aged 11 and over who live, work or travel through those areas are being urged to take a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, on top of using twice-weekly rapid testing.
The DHSC said it is the "largest surge testing operation to date" aimed at suppressing any possible new cases of the variant, with positive results from PCR testing to be sent for genomic sequencing at specialist labs.
It said all those who have tested positive for the variant, with the first case in the area being found in early March, are isolating or have completed their isolation, and their contacts have been traced and asked to isolate.
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