An update on COVID-19 Variants

Although the prevalence of COVID-19 in London continues to remain low, all viruses mutate, and the emergence of new COVID-19 variants are normal and inevitable. Many thousands of mutations have been identified by scientists, but some result in variants that we are keen to keep a closer eye on. These are termed ‘Variant Under Investigation’ (VUI) or ‘Variant Of Concern’ (VOC). 

In some parts of London, variant cases of COVID-19 have been identified and we continue to take a cautious approach in responding. We have had two surge testing operations in Merton this year: one in Pollards Hill and one in Wimbledon Park. These were because there were some cases of the South African variant found locally. All surge testing is now finished and there were no further cases found at that time.

Tailored surge testing operations to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19 variants are likely to become more commonplace. Alongside this, preventing widespread transmission of COVID-19 variants is vital to maintaining the progress made in the vaccination programme to date and to continue the government’s roadmap of easing coronavirus restrictions. 

So what can you do to help stop the spread of the virus and prevent you and your loved ones from catching any of these variants? Some advice is below:

  • Variants are expected and inevitable. Firstly, please remember that all viruses mutate over time, and scientists have been tracking variants since the start of the pandemic. Many thousands have since been found, but there are some we are keen to keep a close eye on. 
  • Remember the basic good behaviours, and take your vaccine when called. London is on the right track, but remembering the basics of Hands, Face, Space and Fresh Air will help protect against all COVID-19 variants. The vaccine also remains an important tool in preventing new cases of COVID-19, hospitalisations and deaths. 
  • Get regular tests to stop transmission – both universal testing as routine and surge testing in response to local variant of concern cases. It is expected that parts of London will continue to see variant cases that will require local surge testing on a regular basis, though this does not mean that each situation is linked. It is also important to keep getting tested even if you have been vaccinated.  Coronavirus tests and self-isolating (
  • Preventing transmission is vital to maintaining the progress made in the vaccination programme to date and to continue the government’s roadmap of easing coronavirus restrictions. Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of the previous step. This assessment will be based on four tests, the fourth being ‘our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.’ 

Want to find out more? 

The Public Health England blog is regularly updated and has a lot of useful information.

Issue Webpage 
How many different variants are there and how many cases are there in the UK?    Variants: distribution of cases data     
Where can I find more detail on the variants in the UK?    Confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants identified in UK   
What do we know about the new COVID-19 variants?   
Disease Detectives – Finding the UK’s dominant COVID-19 variant and the race to understand its impact   
Where is surge testing taking place in the country? Surge testing for new coronavirus (COVID-19) variants 
How many variant cases has surge testing uncovered? COVID-19 surge testing outcomes reports