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‘Conditions’ Clash Causes Surge Test Confusion in Woking

Published on: 3 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 3 Feb, 2021

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

A clash in official advice is confusing Woking residents amid their mass Covid variant test drive in St Johns, Goldsworth Park and Knaphill. Conditions set publicly by Health Secretary Matt Hancock contradict local instructions. And some people found they could not register their kits online.

But a Department of Health and Social care spokesperson denied there had been any confusion: “The Health Secretary has made it clear that for those areas involved in the surge testing, it is imperative that everyone must follow the national stay at home guidance wherever possible, only leaving where is absolutely essential – for work, essential shopping or exercise.

“The best way to stop the spread of the virus – including new variants – is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place. Until more people are vaccinated this is the only way we will control the spread of the virus.”

The GU21 postcode is among eight areas in England where households are being hand-delivered PCR tests this week after 105 cases of the highly contagious South African variant were detected.

Forester’s Close the cul de sac on which the surge test area is centred – Photo Ben Darnton

On Monday, two were found in the St John’s/ Goldsworth Park area of Woking. In an online “Policing Your Community” public meeting on Monday (February 1) Chief Constable Gavin Stephens said that it was not the whole of postcode area GU21, as publicised in national media, but a part of that postcode area centred on GU21 8UB.

Woking South African Variant Covid Test Area Centred on GU21 8UB Forester’s Close – Photo Ben Darnton

Neither of those who have tested positive for the strain had recently travelled abroad or has links to previous variant cases.

The surge testing covers about 80,000 people in London, Kent, Hertfordshire, Southport and Walsall as well as Surrey.

On Monday (February 1), Mr Hancock had told residents on TV from Downing Street: “It is imperative you stay at home and you get a test, even if you don’t have symptoms. This is so important so we can break the chain of transmission of this new variant.”

Yesterday (February 2), he repeated this in the House of Commons, adding people should not go out unless that is “absolutely essential”. But the Surrey Local Resilience Forum (SLRF), which is coordinating the Woking surge-testing, is telling residents to simply continue to follow the present national restrictions.

So the only people who need to self-isolate are, as elsewhere, those who either have symptoms, have a positive test result by any method, or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

Essential workers can go to work while awaiting test results, unless they develop symptoms.

Forester’s Close – Photo Ben Darnton

Goldsworth Park’s Cllr Ann-Marie Barker (Lib Dem) said the Health Secretary’s choice of words “had not been helpful” and several troubled residents had contacted her about what to do.

“Matt Hancock went on TV and caused huge confusion,” she said. “It had all been agreed.

“There was a clear message worked out with local government and the local health authority explaining to people just to carry on with the normal guidance, go to work just as normal if you can’t work from home.

“Then everybody sees that and is saying, ‘Oh I can’t go to work tomorrow or, how am I going to collect my neighbour’s shopping?’ And they think we must have got it wrong, because the government can’t have.”

To add to the confusion, the government’s website says: “Every person over 16 living in these locations is strongly encouraged to take a Covid test this week, whether they are showing symptoms or not.”

“Surge-testing” kits being delivered in St John’s – Image SCC

But in Woking, the SLRF has said tests are for those 18 and over. And they are being delivered only in selected areas of the GU21 postcode.

Woking Borough Council’s website has a helpful tool to check full postcodes which show if they are included.

A WBC spokesperson said there was no special treatment for people in the selected GU21 areas and they should continue to follow the same lockdown rules as everybody else.

The county council said they hoped the problem with registering the tests with the Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) would be fixed by yesterday (February 2).

Volunteers were aiming to reach 3,000 people yesterday, with 9,500 swabs expected to be delivered in the GU21 postcode area this week.

A spokesperson said: “We are revisiting those residents to clarify how the tests can be registered online, and to collect completed tests. We thank people for their patience.

“We have raised the issue of the testing registration with DHSC who are working to resolve it and alerted other areas following our operations.”

The SLRF is made up of Surrey County Council, Surrey Police, district and borough councils, Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, Public Health England, local health services, volunteer organisations and others.

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test One Response to ‘Conditions’ Clash Causes Surge Test Confusion in Woking

  1. Julie Howarth Reply

    February 3, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    Is it sensible that the media flock to an area identified as having new strains of the virus, hang around trying to interview people there so they can get a story for the TV and then presumably travel back to another area which might not have the new strain yet?

    Is this really “essential travel”?

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