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Detailed guide: Surge testing for new coronavirus (COVID-19) variants

Department Of Health

February 19
10:50 2021

What surge testing is

Surge testing is increased testing (including door-to-door testing in some areas) and enhanced contact tracing in specific locations in England.

It involves testing of people who do not have any symptoms of coronavirus.

Surge testing started on Monday 1 February.

Genomic sequencing means analysing the virus sample to understand how it compares with other cases.

Why the government is using surge testing

Extensive surveillance of coronavirus has identified a small number of cases of COVID-19 variants and mutations which cannot be traced back to international travel.

The government is using surge testing and genomic sequencing to:

  • monitor and suppress the spread of coronavirus

  • better understand new variants

Read more about surge testing being deployed in England to monitor and suppress the spread of the COVID-19 variant.

Locations using surge testing

Surge testing is currently being carried out in specific and targeted locations within the following local authority areas:

East of England

  • Norfolk County Council (specific areas within IP22)

London

  • London Borough of Ealing (specific areas in and near to the W7 postcode)
  • London Borough of Lambeth (specific areas in the SE21 and SW16 postcodes)

North East

  • Middlesbrough Council (specific areas within the TS7 and TS8 postcodes)

North West

  • Metropolitan Borough of Sefton (Dukes and Cambridge wards)
  • Manchester City Council (specific areas in the following postcodes: M9, M14, M15, M16 and M40)

South East

  • Hampshire County Council (specific areas in the RG26 postcode)
  • Southampton City Council (specific areas in the SO15 postcode)
  • Surrey County Council (specific areas in the GU22 postcode)

South West

  • Bristol City Council (specific areas in the following postcodes: BS1, BS2, BS3, BS4, BS5, BS6, BS8, BS9, BS14 and BS16)
  • South Gloucestershire Council (specific areas in the following postcodes: BS16 and BS37)

West Midlands

  • Birmingham City Council (specific areas in and near to the B31 postcode)
  • Staffordshire County Council (Stafford District)
  • Walsall Council (Pleck ward)
  • Worcestershire County Council (specific areas in and near to the WR3 postcode)

Yorkshire and the Humber

  • Leeds City Council (specific areas within the LS8 and LS9 postcodes)

The list will be updated regularly.

If your local authority is carrying out surge testing, you can visit your local authority website to find out exactly where testing is being targeted.

Locations that have completed surge testing

The following areas have completed initial surge testing operations:

  • Kent County Council (ME15)
  • Surrey County Council (GU21 and TW20)
  • Hertfordshire County Council (EN10)
  • Metropolitan Borough of Sefton (Norwood)
  • London Borough of Haringey (N17)
  • London Borough of Merton (Pollards Hill)
  • Walsall Council (specific areas in and near to the WS2 postcode)

Further data on surge testing will be provided in due course.

Who should get a test

You should get a PCR test for coronavirus if you:

  • live in targeted locations within one of the postcode areas listed on this page

  • are aged 16 years or over

You should get a test even if:

  • you have no symptoms of coronavirus

  • youve had a vaccination for coronavirus

  • youve tested positive for coronavirus previously (but not within the last 90 days)

If youve recently spent time within one of the areas targeted for surge testing but do not live there, you should continue to follow the national restrictions and check with your local authority whether you should get a test.

Who should not get a test

If you have tested positive within the last 90 days, you do not need to be tested.

How to get a test

Local authorities in the postcode areas on this page are providing PCR testing to people without symptoms through extra:

  • home testing kits

  • mobile testing sites

Visit your local authority website to find out more.

What happens after your test

If you test positive, your PCR test will be sent to a laboratory for genomic sequencing.

You must isolate with your household and follow the guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infections. Public Health England will carry out enhanced tracing of close contacts of confirmed cases of the variant.

There is currently no evidence that variants cause more severe illness.

Positive PCR tests from institutions within these specific locations, such as care homes, will also be sent for genomic sequencing.

If you test negative you should continue to follow the national lockdown rules.

If you have coronavirus symptoms

If you have coronavirus symptoms, it is important that you get a test for people with symptoms online, via the NHS COVID-19 app or by calling 119.

You must isolate with your household and follow the guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus infections until you get your result.

Continue to follow national lockdown rules

If you live within one of the postcode areas on this page, the same national restrictions still apply.

You should:

  • stay at home

  • only leave home where it is absolutely essential

You should also practise Hands. Face. Space.

If you live in an area deploying surge testing and need to leave your home because you cannot work from home, or for other essential reasons, you should get tested.

Published 10 February 2021
Last updated 19 February 2021 +show all updates
  1. Updated to include Norfolk County Council (areas in IP22), Metropolitan Borough of Sefton (Dukes and Cambridge wards), Southampton City Council (areas in SO15), Surrey City Council (areas in SO15), Walsall (Pleck ward) and Leeds City Council (areas in LS8 and LS9), and to reflect that Metropolitan Borough of Sefton (Norwood), London Borough of Haringey (N17), London Borough of Merton (Pollards Hill) and Walsall Council (in and near to the WS2) have completed surge testing.

  2. The Middle

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