Council hails incredible community response to SA variant testing as more than 5,000 residents get a test

The Leader of Merton Council in London has paid tribute to the “unbelievable” efforts of staff and community volunteers after enhanced testing in Pollard’s Hill for the South African variant of Covid-19 delivered more than 5,500 tests in the first days of operation.

Multiple agencies, including council staff, volunteers, local community groups and fire services, have been pulling together to deliver surge testing to 9,000 people across 5,000 homes in two weeks.

Within days of launching the testing programme – comprised of door-to-door visits, pick-up and drop-off testing at the New Horizon Centre, and a Mobile Test Unit at Pollards Hill library car park – the council and community has delivered just over 5,500 tests.

So far, even despite bad weather, more than 3,500 have been returned and the council is now offering to help pick up tests for those who are vulnerable and/or unable to return it.

The ongoing effort means the council is almost halfway through its target to get tests to every resident, and efforts are being improved each day to target areas with lower take-up.

Cllr Allison said: “I volunteer in this community every week, and seeing the unbelievable way people have responded has just reiterated what a determined, tightly-knit place Pollards Hill is.

“A huge portion of tests are being delivered through community partners at the New Horizon Centre, and our staff are volunteering to work extremely long hours every day to reach every home. That effort is reflected in the performance.

“Our message today remains clear though – if you live, work in or travel to Pollards Hill and haven’t yet done so, it is essential you get a test today.”

The news comes after Council Leader Mark Allison called on the Government to scrap means-testing for isolation payments, citing them as a major barrier to getting a test voluntarily in a low-income areas of the borough. Read Councillor Allison’s letter to the Prime Minister.