Extensive surveillance of COVID-19 has identified a case of the virus with the South African mutation, in East Finchley, that cannot be traced back to international travel. The case has now recovered, after a self-isolation period.

Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, every person living in affected postcodes in East Finchley N2 over the age of 16 is strongly encouraged to take a PCR COVID-19 test this week, even if they are not showing symptoms.

This week, a team working on behalf of Barnet Council will be going door to door to people’s houses in affected households in N2 to offer them home testing kits for COVID-19.

Cllr Daniel Thomas, The Leader of Barnet Council, said:

“One case of the South African variant of COVID-19 was detected in East Finchley. There is no evidence at present that they have passed the infection further. However, we are introducing door-to-door testing and deploying a mobile testing unit in East Finchley to be absolutely sure.

“I urge everyone to continue to stick to the rules of social distancing, hand washing and face covering and to keep themselves and others safe from the virus. Getting tested and getting vaccinated will help us all return to normality as soon as possible.”

When knocking on the doors, the team will be wearing a ‘Test Centre’ printed blue high visibility vest together with the appropriate PPE, maintain a safe distance, and have ID stating they are working on behalf of Barnet.

If people have concerns about anyone knocking on their door claiming they are working on behalf of Barnet Council, they are advised to ask for ID.

Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) will be also deployed offering PCR testing for people who missed the test kits being delivered and for any other people in East Finchley N2 outside of the affected postcodes who may want to get tested.

There is currently no evidence to suggest this mutation is more serious than others or that existing vaccines aren’t effective against it.

Testing will, in combination with measures such as hands-face-space and lockdown measures, help to suppress and control the spread of the virus, while enabling a better understanding of the mutation.

Positive tests will be sequenced to identify any further spread of the mutation, enabling a better understanding of the mutation, and identifying if there are any more cases of this particular strand of the virus in the area. If someone tests positive, they must self-isolate immediately and pass on details on their contacts to NHS Test and Trace.

A mobile testing unit will also be opened in Brent Street, Hendon NW4 as the affected case had visited the area before being tested. Residents and shoppers in the immediate area are encouraged to get a test over the coming week. Door-to-door test drops will not be happening in NW4.

For more information about surge testing in East Finchley, visit www.barnet.gov.uk/surgetesting

Professor Kevin Fenton, London regional director for Public Health England said:

“All viruses mutate over time and since the start of the pandemic over 4,000 mutations have been identified in the UK. Most are not a concern for scientists, but we know that some mutations result in virus variants that we are keen to track more carefully.

“In London we’re working with NHS Test and Trace and local authority public health teams on tailored intervention measures for variants. These include more testing, additional genomic sequencing and enhanced contact tracing, enabling us to quickly identify any further cases and help prevent any onward spread.

“It’s key that we adapt and respond to the changing nature of COVID-19 in a way that works for our communities, our city and for Londoners. Taking this targeted approach is essential as we look to take the first cautious steps out of lockdown.

“Around 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms at all, and testing is quick and free. If you are an eligible resident of N2 or NW4 please take advantage of the opportunity to take a test and keep London safe.”

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