London Borough of Merton closes Enhanced Testing for South African Covid-19 variant after community delivers 10,000 tests in less than two weeks

Council staff, volunteers and community partners in the London Borough of Merton have stood down their current enhanced testing programme for the South African variant of Covid-19, after delivering tests to more than 10,000 residents in less than two weeks.

Based at the New Horizon Centre, the council worked with dozens of community volunteers and staff to deliver the tests despite experiencing sub-zero temperatures and just 48 hours notice to launch the programme.

Staff and volunteers walked through the frozen conditions to reach around 5,000 homes across the ward, while others got their tests at the NHS Test and Trace Mobile Testing Unity stationed in the Pollards Hill Library car park, or used a volunteer-led drop-off and pick up facility based in the New Horizon Centre and operating seven days a week.

To date, there have been no additional cases of the South African variant of the virus discovered, although the test analysis can take up to 14 days from the date of the test. The council will be writing to residents again once it receives an update from the NHS, but is advising people to stay alert for test results.

Council Leader Mark Allison and Naomi Martin, Director of the Commonside Trust, the local charity managing the New Horizon Centre on Pollards, both paid tribute to the way the local community has responded.

Cllr Allison said: “First and foremost, Merton Council is in incredibly grateful for the amazing response shown by the community, our volunteers and our staff.

“From the tireless commitment of Commonside Trust’s team members, from the dozens of local residents who stepped forward to volunteer to go door to door, and from the council staff who volunteered to put aside their day jobs  – all of them during lockdown, in often freezing conditions, for jobs they didn’t have to volunteer to do. They have done Pollards Hill proud.

“Mostly, I want to thank residents for trusting us, and for helping keep the community safe. While we’ve had no cases of the variant to date, the fact is that achieving these 10,000 tests will help to find an isolate any cases and stop and potential spread.

“As yet, we’ve had no positive results – but we must ask people to wait for the official NHS results, and we will be updating people as soon as we can.”

Naomi Martin, Director of the Commonside Trust at the New Horizon Centre, added: “We have all worked hard to ensure that, in providing the physical base for the operation, we kept the Centre clean and safe throughout for the enhanced support teams using it. 

“We are very pleased to have worked so well with our good partners at Merton Council for this vital work. Their logistical response has been second to none. 

“I hope that people living and working in the Pollards Hill area are reassured as result of the enhanced testing services provided and that the operation will succeed in bringing right down the risks of the spread of the South African variant. We will continue to promote all public health messages and encourage all members of the community to stay safe and protect their loved ones.”



  1. The recent Enhanced Testing programme in Merton is now closed. The MTU and New Horizons Centre have shut down and no further testing will be carried out tomorrow.
  2. Mark Allison and Naomi Martin are available for interview via Merton Council. Contact Matt Burrows on 07825 431763.
  3. Results are via the NHS and take up to 14 days to process