Targeted Covid-19 variant testing taking place in parts of Dalston and Shoreditch
Two Covid-19 variants of concern, one first identified in South Africa and one first identified in India, have been found in areas of Shoreditch and Dalston.
Hackney Council is now asking everyone over 16 who lives or works in affected areas to get a Covid-19 PCR test, even if you do not have symptoms, to help stop the spread of these variants in the community.
These areas are parts of Shoreditch, around Old Street and Great Eastern Street; and parts of Dalston town centre, around Dalston Lane and Kingsland High Street.
If you do, you should either:
- Go to a test site and ask for a PCR test (a lab-checked test, usually recommended for those with Covid-19 symptoms)
- Or, order a PCR test to your home or work address, by calling: 119 (people with hearing or speech difficulties can call 18001 119); or visiting here. Drop off your completed home test kit at a local testing site or post in a priority post box.
- Bentley Road Car Park, N1 4BZ (open seven days a week, 8am-8pm)
- Geffrye Community Hall, Falkirk Street, N1 6SD (operational from Saturday 15 May, when it will be open seven days a week, 9am-6pm)
- St John the Baptist Church, Pitfield Street, N1 6NP (operational from Tuesday 18 May, when it will be open seven days a week, 9am-3pm)
- Other test locations here
There is no need to book. Let staff at the sites know you work or live in an area where a variant of concern has been identified and the Council has asked you to take a test.
Business owners in the areas can pick up PCR tests for their staff at the test locations. Or, alternatively, arrange for test kit delivery.
I am asking everyone who lives or works in the affected areas of Dalston and Shoreditch to get a PCR test. These tests are processed in a lab where scientists can look at what type of virus it is, and check if it is a variant of concern.
If you get a positive test result then you and your whole household must stay at home for 10 days; this stops the virus from spreading in the community and helps keep others safe from it.
Viruses constantly change through mutation, which can make them spread more easily, be more dangerous to us or mean our treatments are not as effective. That is why when a variant of concern is identified in an area we work quickly to stop this variant of the virus in its tracks. Take the test and help us beat Covid-19.
I live in one of the affected areas and know this will be worrying for some; but this additional testing is a vital further step in our work to keep Hackney safe. I will be getting my PCR test and urge others to do the same. It’s really important as it will allow us to track variants and prevent further transmission into the community.
I’d also like to reassure everyone in Hackney that while this targeted testing work is being carried out, these areas - and the businesses within them - remain open and it is safe to visit. In addition, hospitality businesses in these areas can resume Covid-safe indoor trading from Monday 17 May, in accordance with the government’s roadmap.
The Council has been contacting businesses in these areas, to let people know our plans to keep the variants under control.
Everyone already identified with the variant strains have or are now self-isolating and robust contact tracing has taken place.
One-in-three people with Covid-19 do not show symptoms. By taking this test, you can help stop further spread of these variants in the community; help to keep Hackney safe; and help beat Covid-19.
If you test positive, have any symptoms, or are contact-traced following contact with someone who has tested positive, you must self-isolate immediately for 10 days. There is support available for you, if you have difficulty self-isolating, including financial support in some circumstances. Go online or call the Council on: 020 8356 3111 between Monday and Friday, 9am-5pm.
All Hackney residents and workers should still be testing twice-weekly, using rapid, no-symptom lateral flow tests. Collect these for free for home-use from most pharmacies or at a rapid testing centre, or order by calling 119 or going online here.
Current vaccines still work against all strains. Ensure you are protected from COVID-19 by getting your vaccination when you are eligible. If you are over 38 book your vaccine now by calling 119 or visiting here.
What is happening and why?
Two variants of concern of Covid-19, commonly known as the South African and Indian variants, have been identified in a small number of people in Hackney.
As a result, the Council will be testing in parts of Dalston and Shoreditch. This only involves addresses in the following postcode areas: E8 2; E8 3; E8 4; N1 4; N16 8; EC1V 9; EC2A 3; EC2A 4; N1 6.
You can check if you are affected by using the online postcode checker or area maps to see if your household or workplace is being asked to test.
Does that mean the stay-at-home guidance has changed in this part of Hackney? Is there a stricter lockdown now in place as a result?
No. The same national restrictions continue to apply in the target areas. Hospitality businesses in these areas can resume Covid-safe indoor trading from Monday 17 May, in accordance with the government’s roadmap.
I’m an employer in this area: should I keep my workforce home?
No, the current regulations on Covid-19 still advise those who can work from home to do so, but if staff need to be on-site they can still attend work with Covid-19 safety precautions in place. Everyone should continue to follow the national lockdown rules, and remember: Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air.
For testing to detect the new variant you should either:
- Go to a test-site and ask for a PCR test (a lab-checked test, usually recommended for those with Covid-19 symptoms)
- Or, order a PCR test to your home or work address by calling: 119 (people with hearing or speech difficulties can call 18001 119); or visiting: nhs.uk/coronavirus. Drop off your completed home test kit at a local testing site or post in a priority post box.
Test sites in these areas are at:
- Bentley Road Car Park, N1 4BZ (open seven days a week, 8am-8pm)
- Geffrye Community Hall is (operational from Saturday 15 May, when it will be open seven days a week, 9am-6pm)
- St John the Baptist Church Pitfield Street N1 6NP (operational from Tuesday 18 May, open seven days a week, 9am-3pm).
How do I access a home testing kit?
Home testing kits can be ordered online or by calling 119. Drop off your completed home test kit at a local testing site or post in a priority post box.
When was this variant first identified in these areas?
It takes a few weeks between a positive test and a sample being fully sequenced in a lab. The identified infections occurred in three workplaces in the affected areas, and were identified over a number of weeks. Robust contact tracing of the infected people and self isolation has taken place.
Latest data and information of the new variants can be found on the government website.
Will standard PCR tests identify this variant?
Yes. PCR tests are lab-proceed by scientists who can see which virus is from which variant, and ensure variants of concern are not spreading around a community.
Can I visit these areas?
Yes. You can shop, get a haircut, or visit any other local business, as normal. Please follow Covid-19 guidelines as you would in any shop or venue. In venues make sure you are only sitting in your group in a ‘rule of six’ or two households. Follow the Covid-19 guidelines put in place by businesses, such as wearing your face covering when you are moving around the establishment to ensure you and others are kept safe. And remember to scan the QR code, provided by the business, to help with contact tracing.
Have people or businesses in these areas been contacted about target testing prior to the announcement?
No, but work is about to commence to ensure residents, employers, stakeholders and others are aware. The Department of Health and Social Care has been working intensively with our local Director of Public Health and local health protection team to help keep people safe.
I live in a nearby/adjoining postcode, can I get tested?
We are focusing on testing in those areas where we know we have confirmed cases of the variant. But anyone in the local area or borough who is concerned can get a test by calling 119 or visiting here.
I have visited the area recently, but do not live there. What should I do?
We are only asking those who work or live in the areas to book a PCR test. However, everyone should continue to follow the national guidance and book a PCR test if they develop symptoms. Rapid testing for people without symptoms continues to be available in various sites and locations in Hackney. Residents should already be testing themselves with rapid tests twice weekly. Pick up a box of rapid tests for free at a local pharmacy. Find out more.
Will the ‘targeted testing’ exclude people who have tested positive via PCR tests in the last 90 days – as per the current PCR testing guidance?
People who have tested positive in the last 90 days are advised to test again in this context (targeted testing looks for variants).
What about testing in schools? And will they close?
All schools will remain open. Hackney schools and colleges should continue to promote and support twice weekly rapid testing as they have been doing. The targeted testing we are carrying out is to identify if there are more variants of concern in the specific postcodes listed. If a secondary school or college is located within these postcodes we are asking them to advise pupils aged 16+ and their families to take a PCR test. Staff working in both primary and secondary schools in the affected areas will be asked to test for the variant.
How long will targeted testing last?
This targeted testing is due to last around two weeks and will be kept under close review. We are asking people to take one PCR test in the two-week period.
Who can get tested?
Everyone within the affected areas aged 16 and over should get tested. You can find out if you work or live in one of the affected areas here.
Are you testing care homes?
All PCR tests in the area will be sent to labs to be sequenced, including those from institutions such as care homes which undertake regular PCR asymptomatic testing.
Why aren’t you using community test sites/lateral flow ‘rapid’ tests?
PCR tests are lab-processed; this means scientists can look at the virus in the lab and do the genomic sequencing needed to detect the variants of concern.
Should I still get a test if I have had the vaccine?
Everyone in the affected areas aged 16 and over should get tested – even if you have been vaccinated.
Is this variant more deadly?
There is currently no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness, and it is likely that all of the current Covid-19 vaccines will offer good levels of protection against the new variants.
Do these variants spread more easily?
Similar to the evidence collected from the variant first identified in the UK (so-called Kent variant), there is some evidence that these variants can spread more easily than the ‘original’ version of the virus.