South African Covid variant found in Ilford, 'surge testing' to begin

Members of Kent Fire and Rescue Service deliver coronavirus testing kits in Maidstone, Kent, during

A single case of the South African variant of coronavirus has been identified in Ilford and surge testing is set to begin to break the chain of transmission. - Credit: PA

A single case of the South African variant of Covid has been identified in Ilford and surge testing will be deployed in the Loxford and Clementswood areas to identify any other cases.

The confirmed case is in Loxford and has not been linked to international travel, and the person has made a full recovery after self-isolating after testing positive on January 31.

Redbridge Council is asking people living or working in the Loxford or Clementswood areas to take a PCR Covid-19 test.

While not recognised as more deadly, the South African variant of the virus in known to spread more easily than the initial strain.

The council and Public Health need to gather as much information as possible from people living or working in Loxford or Clementswood to see if this variant is present in these communities, and if so, work with people to stop the spread.

To do this, up to 5,000 people over the age of 17 living or working there will be asked to take a PCR test over the next two weeks from Friday, February 26.

Anyone aged 16 or over is urged to take a PCR test in these areas, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not.

Anyone aged 16 or over is urged to take a PCR test in these areas, regardless of whether you have symptoms or not. - Credit: Redbridge Council

Covid-19 tests are being offered in two ways:

Most Read

  • People who do not have symptoms and are not shielding can get tested by visiting a walk-through mobile testing unit at Jubilee Gardens, Ilford lane from 9am to 3pm. You do not have to book, but you may have to queue.
  • Redbridge Council’s engagement team will be offering door-to-door PCR home testing in the affected areas for anyone over the age of 16 regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. Once the tests have been taken the kits will be collected by the engagement team and sent for analysis in a laboratory. The tests, delivery and collection service are all free.

Redbridge Council held an emergency meeting last night (Wednesday, February 24) for all councillors after Public Health England notified them of the positive case.

The case of the new variant was from a test on January 31 but was only discovered this week due to the complexity of genome sequencing which takes longer to identify different strains of Covid than a standard positive result from a PCR test.

Cllr Mark Santos, cabinet member for health, adult social care and ageing, said: “This is about taking swift action to keep driving down the number of cases of Covid-19 in our communities and to enable us to gradually move out of lockdown in line with the government’s roadmap.

"I also want to remind people that there is support available. For anyone who tests positive and has to self-isolate, they may be eligible for a support grant of £500 from the government. There is also lots of help available from the council and community groups for anyone who is struggling as a result of this pandemic either with their mental health, or practical issues.”

Director of public health Gladys Xavier added: “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 Redbridge. I urge everyone in Loxford and Clementswood wards who is 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 guidance that is in place – 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.”

As of data up to February 22, there are 188 confirmed cases of the South African variant, known as VOC-202012/02, throughout the country.

The South African variant, which was first discovered in October, has been found in at least 20 other countries, including the UK.

It was first sequenced in the UK in December.

“Working in partnership with the local authority, additional testing and genomic sequencing is being deployed to a targeted area within the IG1 postcode in Redbridge, where the Covid-19 variant first identified in South Africa has been found,” the Department for Health and Social Care said.

While Redbridge had some of the highest infection rates in previous months, the rate has drastically come down.

The current infection rate is 98, through cases as of February 22.

At it's highest point, the infection rate was 1,579 new daily cases per 100,000 people on January 4.

If you have symptoms (new continuous cough, high temperature, loss of taste or smell) it is essential that, wherever you live, you get tested and self-isolate while awaiting the results. Residents can book a test online or by calling NHS 119.

Visit for more information on surge testing in Redbridge.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter