Covid-19 surge testing coming to the Stokes in response to cases of Brazilian mutation

Image of coronavirus particles.

Thousands of residents in parts of Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Patchway are being asked to take part in a week-long programme of Covid-19 community testing following the identification of two cases of a variant of concern in the area.

The initiative, announced today (Sunday 28th February 2021) by Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace, relates to a variant of concern know as P.1 – first identified in Manaus, Brazil.

The two local cases, out of a total of six currently identified in the UK, have been detected within members of a single household having a history of travel to Brazil.

Additional community testing, also known as surge testing, will follow the same process that was in place in parts of South Gloucestershire earlier this month. It will invite residents who live in five postcode sectors, who are aged 16 and over and who are asymptomatic (i.e. without symptoms of Covid-19), to come forward for testing, as well as people who travel into that area for work or to visit someone they are in a support bubble with.

The identified postcode areas fall within Bradley Stoke, Patchway and Little Stoke and are different to those that were part of the community surge testing programme which took place elsewhere in South Gloucestershire and Bristol between 7th and 21st February. There is no connection between the two programmes.

The postcode sectors are:

  • BS32 0
  • BS32 8
  • BS32 9
  • BS34 5
  • BS34 6

The testing will be provided at two new community surge testing sites, open 9am to 6pm, every day from Monday 1st March 2021, which are primarily designed for vehicles. Additionally, a range of community-based Collect & Drop locations will open on Monday, from 9am to 5pm, also every day, allowing residents to walk-in to collect a test kit, take it home and complete the test there, and return it for processing.

It is currently anticipated that the programme will run for one week and end on Sunday 7th March 2021.

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The drive-in community surge testing sites will be located at:

  • Parkway North Park & Ride, Hunts Ground Road, Stoke Gifford BS34 8HP
  • The Mall Coach Park, The Mall Cribbs Causeway, Highwood Road, Patchway BS34 5DJ

The first two community-based Collect & Drop sites, which will be open from Monday 1st March, will be located at:

  • Little Stoke Community Hall, Little Stoke Lane, Little Stoke BS34 6HR
  • Patchway Community Centre, Rodway Road, Patchway BS34 5PF

From Tuesday 2nd March, three additional Collect & Drop sites will be available, located at:

  • Bradley Stoke Jubilee Centre, Savages Wood Road BS32 8HL [1]
  • Baileys Court Activity Centre, Baileys Court Road, Bradley Stoke BS32 8BH
  • Coniston Community Centre, The Parade, Coniston Road, Patchway BS34 5LP

[1] This site will not be open on Friday 5th March.

Surge testing allows public health teams to find and isolate any positive cases of coronavirus, to help break the chain of transmission, by finding asymptomatic cases and prompting people to self-isolate. Positive results will be followed up with genome sequencing to identify the precise strain so that scientists can learn more about the disease.

The one-off testing will use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are analysed in laboratories, rather than lateral flow tests (also known as rapid tests).

Photo of Sara Blackmore.
Sara Blackmore, director of public health.

Sara Blackmore, director of public health at South Gloucestershire Council, said:

“We are keen that all South Gloucestershire residents in the postcode areas identified take part in this testing, which will help us to identify positive cases and prompt self-isolation, which helps to break the chain of transmission.”

“We do recognise the challenge for residents of undertaking another additional testing programme and want to thank you in advance for your patience and support as we continue to work together to protect our communities from Covid-19.”

“We are working together with local and regional health partners, Public Health England and NHS Test and Trace, to deliver this swift, safe and co-ordinated response, with an enhanced community testing offer available to people in and around areas where this variant has been discovered.”

“This is in addition to the ongoing availability of testing if you have symptoms (please book through the national booking portal either online at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119) and regular rapid asymptomatic testing for essential workers. This additional action will enable closer monitoring and work to reduce further transmission of the virus.”

“Even though we have a national road map to recovery from Covid-19, it is vital that we continue to follow the advice, which remains the same to everyone. Behave as if you are carrying the virus, stay in and only leave home if you must. Do not mix socially outside of your household and continue to observe public health guidance – hands, face, space. If you are invited to receive a vaccine, please do so.”

“Further information about our community surge testing offer will be made available in coming days as we move quickly to respond. In the meantime, I urge everyone to continue doing the most you can to limit the spread of the virus, to protect yourself and each other.”

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Mike Wade, deputy regional director for Public Health England South West, 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 the South West 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 local communities. 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 a resident of the identified areas, please take advantage of the opportunity to take a test and keep South Gloucestershire safe.”

More information and related links:

More about the six UK cases

Three cases have been detected in England and separately three in Scotland. According to BBC News:

In England, the first two cases are from the same household in South Gloucestershire after someone returned from Brazil on 10th February – five days before the government’s hotel quarantine rule came into force.

Two other people in the same household have also since tested positive for Covid – but tests are still ongoing to check if it is the same variant, so they are not included in the overall UK total of six.

The third case identified in England is not linked to the other two cases and the whereabouts of that person are still not known.

[Statements correct as of 28th February 2021]

Full story on the BBC News website: Covid-19: Brazil ‘variant of concern’ detected in UK

More from BBC News (latest first):

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Update: 2,500 attend surge testing sites on first day

Added 1st March 2021.

The first day of surge testing in the Stokes and Patchway area has seen around than 2,500 people attend the community surge testing units at Parkway North Park & Ride, Stoke Gifford and the Coach Park at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway. Additionally, more than 3,200 test kits have been collected from Collect & Drop sites at Little Stoke Community Hall and Patchway Community Centre.

As stated in the original article, a further three Collect & Drop sites will be open from tomorrow (Tuesday 2nd March).

Sara Blackmore, director of public health at South Gloucestershire Council, said:

“I want to thank everyone who has come forward for testing already and encourage all of those eligible in the target postcode areas to take part this week.”

“Testing is a key part of the road map that will take us out of Covid restrictions and our priority right now is to make sure that we also identify any cases of the Brazilian variant so that we can protect our residents.”

“This programme is precautionary, but the more data we have, the better we can understand and tackle the virus and of course every case among asymptomatic people that we can find and isolate, the lower our transmission rates will be and we can avoid inadvertently passing on Covid-19 to others.”

“We do appreciate the challenge of undertaking an additional testing programme and want to thank you for your support as we continue to work together to protect our communities from Covid-19.”

“The take up on just our first day of surge testing has been really encouraging and we are keen to make this as accessible as we can, which is why we have opened more Collect & Drop sites where people can pick up test kits for themselves, their household and potentially for other vulnerable residents.”

“We want to emphasise that if you are collecting kits for others that you pass those on and take them back safely and that you return them to where you collected them as soon as possible.”

“We would also remind people that this programme is in addition to the ongoing availability of testing if you have symptoms (please book through the national booking portal either online at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119) and regular rapid asymptomatic testing for essential workers. This additional action will enable closer monitoring and work to reduce further transmission of the virus.”

If you live, attend school or work in a school within the specified surge testing area and you test positive from a lateral flow test, also known as a rapid test, you are asked to follow this up with a full PCR test. This will enable the sample to be processed in a laboratory for genomic sequencing which will check for the P.1 variant. You can book this test online at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119 – do not visit one of the local surge testing sites for this follow-up test.

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Update: Surge testing extended to a second week

Added 4th March 2021.

Surge testing in five postcode sectors in South Gloucestershire is to be extended until Sunday 14th March, in order to maximise the opportunity for anyone aged 16 and over, who is asymptomatic (without symptoms of Covid-19), and lives, works or visits someone they are in a support bubble with, in those areas, to take part should they wish. The target postcode sectors remain the same.

The two existing surge testing facilities in Stoke Gifford and Patchway will remain in place for the remainder of the programme, and the five community-based Collect & Drop sites will also remain open.

Furthermore, the council will be reaching out directly to residents who may not be able to attend a testing facility or arrange to pick up a home test kit for themselves, to deliver a test kit to them directly and collect it after completion. [Details below]

A council spokesperson said:

“The uptake of the surge testing programme so far has been very good, with 3,806 people attending the mobile testing units in Stoke Gifford and Patchway and 8,828 kits collected from community collect and drop centres, by the end of Wednesday 3rd March. So far, 5,495 of those kits have been returned. Anyone who has collected a kit is encouraged to complete it, register it, and return it as soon as they can. All sites are open seven days-a-week to make it as convenient as possible for people to take part.”

Sara Blackmore, director of public health at South Gloucestershire Council, said:

“The response from the community to this additional testing has been welcomed, with large numbers of people coming forward. We hope by extending the programme to the same two-week period as we ran our first surge programme, and by reaching out directly to those who might not otherwise be able to take part, that everyone who is eligible in the target postcode areas will be encouraged and able to take a test.”

“If we do identify any further positive tests early, particularly among those without symptoms, we have an opportunity to stop the spread of the virus. Additionally, every positive test result can be processed to examine the precise variant present, which adds to our scientific understanding of the virus and helps us to be even more effective in controlling it now and in the future.”

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Update: How to order a home test kit

Added 9th March 2021.

You can ask for a test kit to be delivered to your home if you are not able to go to a community surge test site or a collect and drop centre because you are:

  • Shielding
  • Housebound
  • Caring for someone
  • Affected by mobility issues

The test kit will be delivered to you and collected the next day.

To arrange a home delivery you can:


Update: Last date for returning home test kits

Added 11th March 2021.

All tests must be returned by 5pm on Monday 15th or Tuesday 16th March to any of the collect and drop centres, apart from Baileys Court Activity Centre which will NOT be open on Tuesday 16th March.

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Update: Three more cases confirmed in South Gloucestershire

Added 11th March 2021.

Public Health England (PHE) has announced that three more cases of the Covid-19 P.1 (Brazilian) variant have been identified in South Gloucestershire.

According to a PHE statement issued this afternoon:

Four more cases of the Variant of Concern VOC-202101/02, also known as P.1, have been identified in England – 3 in South Gloucestershire and one in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

The cases in South Gloucestershire are all close or household contacts of the 2 existing P.1 cases in the area. They were offered testing in response to the initial cases.

Specialist contact tracing teams have undertaken a comprehensive investigation to identify any further contacts and additional testing has been in place since the initial cases were identified.

See also: Four more cases of Brazil variant found in England (BBC News)


Update: Residents thanked following end of surge testing

Added 17th March 2021.

Transcript of a video message published by South Gloucestershire Council on Wednesday 17th March 2021, three days after the end of the community surge testing programme:

I’m Sara Blackmore, director of public health for South Gloucestershire.

As our surge testing in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Patchway comes to an end, I just wanted to say a huge thank you to all of the local residents who took part.

Thanks to you, in just two weeks over 15,000 tests were either taken at one of our mobile sites or picked up from a community centre to be completed at home and then returned.

This means that about 50 percent of the target population in the specified area came forward. Thank you.

It was reassuring to see that of all the tests that were taken only around 20 have been found to be positive for Covid-19 which shows that our collective and ongoing efforts to stop the spread of the virus are working and while the risk remains low the surge testing programme allowed us to not only identify those cases of asymptomatic Covid-19 in the areas, but also positive tests are then forwarded for genome sequencing to identify the specific variant of the virus present.

As we continue to follow the government’s roadmap, regular testing is starting to become the norm for many of us, which is why I am so encouraged by the uptake of people from South Gloucestershire.

Thank you – by coming forward you’ve played your part to help us keep South Gloucestershire safe. Thank you.

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