Surge testing will be deployed in targeted areas of north-west London and north-east England where the South African variant of coronavirus has been found.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said on Thursday that additional testing and genomic sequencing will be rolled out in the North Wembley area of Brent in the capital and the TS19 postcode area in Stockton-on-Tees, in County Durham, as part of efforts to suppress the spread of the variant.
The department said: “The increased testing is being introduced in addition to existing extensive testing and, in combination with the public following current lockdown rules and Hands Face Space advice, will help to monitor and suppress the spread of the virus.
“Positive cases will be sequenced for genomic data to help increase our understanding of Covid-19 variants and their spread within these areas.
“Enhanced contact tracing will be used for individuals testing positive with a variant of concern. This is where contact tracers look back over an extended period in order to determine the route of transmission.”
People living within the targeted areas are “strongly encouraged” to take a Covid-19 test when offered, whether they are showing symptoms or not.
The announcement covers the latest deployment of surge testing in England in a bid to control and suppress the potential spread of coronavirus variants.
On Monday, surge testing began in south Gloucestershire after cases of the Manaus variant of coronavirus – a new strain that may spread more rapidly and may respond less well to existing vaccines – were discovered.
Last week, the Government also announced it would be deploying surge testing in Ealing and Redbridge in London to suppress the South African coronavirus variant.
The latest additional testing news comes as official Test and Trace figures revealed that a total of 68,738 people tested positive for Covid-19 in England at least once in the week to February 24.
This is down 19% on the previous week and is the lowest number since the week to September 30.
Of the 69,129 people transferred to the Test and Trace system in the week to February 24, 88.5% were reached and asked to provide details of recent close contacts.
This is down very slightly from 88.7% in the previous week.
Some 11.1% of people transferred to Test and Trace in the week to February 24 were not reached while a further 0.5% did not provide any communication details.