Testing has been ramped up in eight areas of England this week, following confirmation of the South African variant of Covid-19.
Despite Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s determination to “find every last case” there has been widespread confusion over who needs to be tested and how they should go about getting one.
Questions have also been raised as to why those working in target areas aren’t being asked to be tested.
Public health officials aim to test 80,000 adults either door-to-door or in mobile test centres by the end of this week but there have been setbacks.
When are you collecting the completed tests? My family and I did ours yesterday morning, being told that they’d be collected that afternoon. By tomorrow it will be 48 hours since we did the swabs, and surely the sample will start to deteriorate soon?
— Hol (@hollyfg93) February 4, 2021
Please advise what I am supposed to do with my swab in the box that was not collected today! I was told they would be back in 2 hours or so, it’s been over 8hrs now and I guess they’re not coming back now at nearly 10pm. Do I throw it away or is it ok to post tomorrow??
— Sally Adams Aveda (@SallyAdamsAveda) February 2, 2021
These tweets show that in both Woking and Walsall people had issues with tests being collected after volunteers dropped them off.
Government advice is that home tests should be taken around an hour before last collection, suggesting that time is relevant to the sample’s viability.
Others have been confused due to unclear postcode guidelines, despite certain postcodes being names as target areas they are not fully included in the testing. In some cases they are separated by just a road.
A bit of information for you. NOT all residents have to be tested. I have checked my post code (WS2) and the street I live don't need a test.
— Paul Sav Spark (@PaulSav70457468) February 2, 2021
Walsall Council said they did not have time to be interviewed, instead directing questions to their latest testing press releases.
“It’s quick, easy and painless and, put simply, you could save lives by doing so.”
Councillor Stephen Craddock, Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing
Walsall Council is encouraging people in target areas to have coronavirus tests but they have not clarified where the public should get tests, only saying “testing units will be deployed”.
Aman Singh said he had not been able to get a test because he works 9am-5pm and the test centre he had been directed to was only open 9am-3pm and home test kits were not being provided in his area.
Although he said he would get a test if it were more convenient, he wasn’t worried about about contracting the disease as he doesn’t mix with others.
“People welcom[ed] the idea of finding out if they had the new strain”
Charlie Stenning, Home covid test courier and collector
Charlie Stenning who delivered and collected tests around the Goldsworth Park area of Woking said that although some residents were surprised to have him at their door they welcomed the opportunity to take a test.
He spent his day walking around the area delivering tests to up to 250 homes and then returning to collect them in the afternoon.
Stenning said the only way tests wouldn’t be picked up is if people didn’t answer the door as there were comprehensive lists of houses visited and tests collected.
The 8 postcode areas currently increasing testing in order to track the South African Variant are W7, N17 and CR4 in London, WS2 in Walsall, ME15 in Kent, EN10 in Hertfordshire, GU21 in Surrey and PR9 in Lancashire.
This graphic shows the areas in England that the South African variant has been found. Although this mutation of the disease has been detected in Bristol they have not yet announced plans for increased testing.
The South African variant, known as EK48K, is a mutation that helps the coronavirus to evade antibodies, making it harder for the body to fight against the disease. There is some worry this will effect the ability of the vaccine against this strain.