Covid-19 mass testing after variant detected in E1 postal area

Covid testing under way

Covid testing under way - Credit: LBTH Stockshot

Mass testing began on Sunday for Covid-19 after the South African and Brazilian variants were found in the East End. 

Additional genomic sequencing is now underway for anyone living or working in the E1 postal area covering Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Shadwell, Stepney and Wapping, which are being targeted by the NHS for surge testing.

But the latest developments mean that testing is also to be carried out in the E2, E3 and E14 areas covering Bethnal Green, Bow, Poplar and the Isle of Dogs. 

Several cases of the Covid variants were found, but neither Tower Hamlets Council nor NHS Test and Trace have given details of how many cases have been identified. 

One of the worst affected parts of London for Covid-19 has been Shadwell, represented at the town hall by Tower Hamlets councillor Rabina Khan, who has been campaigning for months for mass testing.


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“All politicians must seek to ensure people and communities are protected,” she told the East London Advertiser.

“There are London elections for mayor happening, but my priority for Shadwell and affected areas is about getting people tested.”

Tower Hamlets Cllr Rabina Khan calling for mass Covid testing across the whole East End

Tower Hamlets Cllr Rabina Khan, meeting worried shoppers at Watney Market, calling for mass Covid testing across the whole East End - Credit: Mike Brooke

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She added: “People should remain calm, but remember that the pandemic is not over. There are bound to be variants although the vaccines should deal with them

“The areas where surge testing has to be done are very specific and quite small. Use the postcode checker on the council site to see if you are in an affected area.”

Testing is also planned in other parts of east London, such as in Ilford postal areas of IG1 and IG6 and specific neighbourhoods with IG5 and IG7 postcodes.

All the confirmed cases are self-isolating, according to the Department of Health and Social Care, and there were no links with the cluster of cases recently identified in south London around Lambeth and Wandsworth, a statement said. 

It advised: “Everybody aged 11 years and over who lives, works or is educated in these postcode areas is strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test when invited, whether they are showing symptoms or not.” 

Mass vaccination programme under way

Mass vaccination programme under way - Credit: PA Images stockshot

There are concerns that the South African variant also leaves vaccines less effective than the jabs would have been against the original coronavirus variant. 

People wanting a confirmation test are being asked to go on the Tower Hamlets website and enter their postcode by the local authority. 

The council set up an additional mobile testing centre on Sunday outside Gouldman House tower block at Wyllen Close in Cleveland Way, off Cambridge Heath Road, running until 3pm. 

A town hall statement said earlier: “We are aware that Covid-19 variants have been identified in some London areas and that enhanced testing is taking place to find any other cases.

“We are actively monitoring cases in Tower Hamlets and have a comprehensive plan to respond should any variant of concern be identified.”

Testing kits can also be collected from various places around the borough:

  • Whitechapel Idea Store, Whitechapel Road, 10am-6pm weekdays, 12noon-4pm weekends
  • Toynbee Hall, Commercial Street, Whitechapel, 11am to 8pm
  • Burcham Street Community Centre, Burcham Street, Poplar, 10am-7pm 
  • Tramshed Community Centre, Digby Street, Bethnal Green, 10am-7pm
  • Watney Market Idea Store, Shadwell, 2.30-8pm
  • St Paul’s Way Centre, Bow Common Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm.
  • Bow Idea Store, Roman Road, 10am-6pm weekdays, 12noon-4pm weekends
  • Canary Wharf Jubilee Place, Lower Mall, 11am-8pm Thurs, 7.30am-4.30pm all other days
  • Jack Dash House, Lawn House Close, Isle of Dogs, 2.30-8pm
  • Abefeldy Community Centre, Aberfeldy Street, Poplar, Mon-Fri, 10am-4.30pm

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