Volunteers go door-to-door with COVID tests in effort to halt South Africa variant spread

George Martin
·4-min read
Volunteers Hanna and Sophie Taylor deliver coronavirus test kits during door-to-door coronavirus testing in Woking, Surrey, part of a testing blitz of 80,000 people in England which is aiming to find "every single case" of the South Africa coronavirus variant in a bid to stop the spread of the more infectious strain. Picture date: Tuesday February 2, 2021.
Volunteers Hanna and Sophie Taylor deliver coronavirus test kits during door-to-door coronavirus testing in Woking, Surrey. (PA)

Volunteers have begun delivering throusands of coronavirus testing kits as part of a push to identify cases of the South African variant of COVID.

Several more cases of the strain, which experts are worried may be more resistant to the vaccines, were identified in parts of the country over the weekend.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said at Monday’s Downing Street press conference that the government would be ramping up testing in the postcodes where cases were found.

And on Tuesday, volunteers began door-to-door delivery of home testing kits as the government is aiming to swab 80,000 people.

A mobile billboard announces door-to-door coronavirus testing in Woking, Surrey, part of a testing blitz of 80,000 people in England which is aiming to find "every single case" of the South Africa coronavirus variant in a bid to stop the spread of the more infectious strain. Picture date: Tuesday February 2, 2021.
A mobile billboard announces door-to-door coronavirus testing in Woking. (PA)
A member of the public uses a swab at an asymptomatic coronavirus testing centre at the Forest Arts Centre in Walsall, West Midlands. A testing blitz of 80,000 people in England is aiming to find "every single case" of the South Africa coronavirus variant in a bid to stop the spread of the more infectious strain. Picture date: Tuesday February 2, 2021.
A member of the public uses a swab at an asymptomatic coronavirus testing centre at the Forest Arts Centre in Walsall. (PA)

More than 100 volunteers are due to help deliver tests within the GU21 postcode area of Woking in Surrey, one of eight postcode areas being targeted across the country.

A first briefing was held on Monday morning outside the town's fire station, with local officials hoping the operation will take four or five days.

Plans involve delivering PCR tests, which are not compulsory, for around 9,500 residents living in an area within the GU21 postcode.

Read more: The two regions that have had their highest weekly COVID deaths since start of pandemic

Two cases of the South African variant of coronavirus have been identified in Woking but local residents should not be concerned, the leader of Surrey County Council said.

Tim Oliver said: "There have been two cases identified in the postcode GU21 here in Woking of people that have the South African variant.

"What we're doing today is starting a mass testing programme of between 9,000 and 10,000 residents living in that geographical area, really with the view to discovering how far and wide that variant has spread, or maybe it hasn't."

Watch: Testing ramped up in west London amid South Africa strain spread

WOKING, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Volunteers deliver testing kits to residents as local authorities deploy covid-19 testing in an effort to track down a South African coronavirus variant found in the area on February 2, 2021 in Woking, United Kingdom. Health authorities have found more than 100 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa,  prompting a scramble to deploy new testing initiatives across eight areas in England. It is thought the variant is more contagious, but not more deadly, than the variant that has predominated in England throughout the covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Volunteers deliver testing kits to residents in Woking. (Getty)

Oliver added: "We want as many people as possible to take the test but it's not compulsory at all, it's voluntary.

"There's no need for people to worry or panic about this. It's just an exercise to identify where this variant is sitting in the community."

He said: "They shouldn't be concerned; it's a bit more virulent, as we know, than some of the other variants, but the symptoms are the same."

Volunteers will drop off testing kits and return later in the day to collect them before the tests are sent off to a lab to be examined for the South African strain.

They will revisit homes on another occasion if people are not in.

A spokeswoman for Surrey County Council said the tests are to be completed by members of households over the age of 18.

People queue for SMART coronavirus testing in Southport, Merseyside. A testing blitz of 80,000 people in England is aiming to find "every single case" of the South Africa coronavirus variant in a bid to stop the spread of the more infectious strain. Picture date: Tuesday February 2, 2021.
People queue for smart coronavirus testing in Southport, Merseyside. (Getty)
A member of the local council distributes coronavirus testing kits to residents in the Goldsworth Park and St John's suburbs or Woking, southwest of London, on February 2, 2021 as testing for the South African variant of Covid-19 is increased. - Health officials said Monday they will urgently increase testing in eight areas across England where nearly a dozen South African Covid-19 variant cases have been identified in the last week. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
A member of the local council distributes coronavirus testing kits in the suburbs of Woking. (Getty)
WOKING, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Volunteers deliver testing kits to residents as local authorities deploy covid-19 testing in an effort to track down a South African coronavirus variant found in the area on February 2, 2021 in Woking, United Kingdom. Health authorities have found more than 100 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa,  prompting a scramble to deploy new testing initiatives across eight areas in England. It is thought the variant is more contagious, but not more deadly, than the variant that has predominated in England throughout the covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Health authorities have found more than 100 cases of a coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa. (Getty)

Mobile testing units and home testing kits will also be deployed to the following areas: Hanwell, west London; Tottenham, north London; Mitcham, south London; Walsall in the West Midlands; Broxbourne, Hertfordshire; Maidstone, Kent; and Southport, Merseyside.

However, one Woking resident said he believed the tests are "a bit of a waste of time" if people are going to work.

Stewart Dawkins, 58, a key worker for a supermarket, said: "I think it's a bit of a waste of time to be honest.

"They've asked you to do this (complete a test) but I'm OK to go to work yesterday.

"What about all the people I've gone and potentially passed it on to last night at work?"

Another Woking resident said said it was "concerning" that the South African variant had been detected locally.

Robyn Brunskill, 22, who works for a marketing agency, said: "It is quite concerning, especially if they are saying people who have it haven't had any direct association with South Africa.

"That makes you worry about where it's coming from and you're more vulnerable than you think you are."