Guidance

Surge testing for new coronavirus (COVID-19) variants

How ‘surge testing’ and genomic sequencing are being used in locations in England where coronavirus (COVID-19) variants have been identified.

Applies to England

What surge testing is

Surge testing is increased testing (including door-to-door testing in some areas) and enhanced contact tracing in specific locations in England and can look different depending on assessment of local requirements.

It involves testing of people who do not have any symptoms of COVID-19.

Tests from all of these areas are sent for genomic sequencing. Genomic sequencing is the process of testing a sample of the virus to map its genetic sequence and is used to identify variants.

If you need to take part in surge testing you will be informed by your local council.

Why the government is using surge testing

The government is using surge testing and genomic sequencing to:

  • monitor and suppress the spread of COVID-19

  • better understand new variants

Locations using surge testing

There are no current community-wide surge testing operations. Testing for variants may be happening within specific settings. If you need to take part, you will be informed by your local council.

The list is updated regularly.

Who should get a test

You should get a test for COVID-19 if you:

  • live in targeted locations within one of the areas listed on this page or are contacted by your local council

  • are in the targeted age group

If you have symptoms, self-isolate straight away and get a PCR test as soon as possible. Do not leave home, except to post a test kit or for a PCR test appointment. Check if people you live with need to self-isolate on NHS.UK.

You should get a test even if:

  • you have no symptoms of COVID-19

  • you’ve had a vaccination for COVID-19

  • you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 previously (but not within the last 90 days by a PCR test)

If you’ve recently spent time within one of the areas targeted for surge testing but do not live there, you should continue to act carefully and remain cautious and check with your local authority whether you should get a test.

Who should not get a test

If you have tested positive with a PCR test within the last 90 days, you do not need to be tested.

How to get a test

Local authorities in the postcode areas on this page are providing PCR testing to people without symptoms through extra:

  • home testing kits

  • mobile testing sites

Visit your local authority website to find out more.

What happens after your test

If you had a positive PCR test, your must self-isolate straight away to avoid spreading the infection to others.

Anyone you live with may also need to self-isolate.

Find out more about self-isolation and what to do on NHS.UK.

Public Health England will carry out enhanced tracing of close contacts of confirmed cases of the variant.

There is currently no evidence that variants cause more severe illness.

If you test negative you should continue to act carefully and remain cautious.

How to stay safe and help prevent the spread

Although most legal restrictions have been lifted at step 4, and many people have been vaccinated, it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated.

Find out how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of coronavirus

Published 10 February 2021
Last updated 16 August 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated 'What happens after your test' to reflect changes to self-isolation guidance. Updated information on what to do if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

  2. Updated to remove testing in the areas Cumbria County Council, Slough Borough Council, City of Bradford, Metropolitan District Council, Leeds City Council and Wakefield Council.

  3. Removed Lambeth Council (targeted areas) from the list of locations using surge testing. Also updated to reflect the lifting of national restrictions as part of step 4 of the roadmap.

  4. Updated to remove locations where the delta variant is spreading fastest.

  5. Added Oxford City Council and Brighton and Hove City Council to the list of areas where the new COVID-19 variant is spreading fastest.

  6. Removed Leicester City Council and North Tyneside Council from the areas where the new COVID-19 variant is spreading fastest, and removed Calderdale Council (targeted areas across Todmorden, Park and Warley wards) from the locations using surge testing.

  7. Removed Bracknell Forest Council (targeted areas) and Surrey County Council (targeted areas in Reigate and Banstead) from the list of locations using surge testing.

  8. Updated information on getting a COVID-19 test if you have symptoms. Added recommendation to get a test even if symptoms are mild.

  9. Removed Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (targeted areas), Reading Borough Council (targeted areas) and Wokingham Borough Council (targeted areas) from the list of locations using surge testing.

  10. Removed Kirklees Council as an area where the new COVID-19 variant is spreading fastest.

  11. Removed Staffordshire County Council (targeted areas) from the list of locations using surge testing.

  12. Added Wakefield Council (targeted areas) to the list of locations using surge testing.

  13. Removed London Borough of Hounslow as an area where the new COVID-19 variant is spreading fastest.

  14. Updated list of areas carrying out surge testing to remove Brent Council, Ealing Council, Harrow Council and Hillingdon Council and add Lambeth Council (targeted areas), Cumbria County Council (targeted areas) and Leeds City Council (targeted areas).

  15. Added Birmingham City Council to list of areas where the new COVID-19 variant is spreading fastest. Updated list of areas carrying out surge testing to remove Redbridge Council and add Surrey County Council (targeted areas in Reigate and Banstead).

  16. Updated the locations using surge testing to include areas in Slough Borough Council and Bracknell Forest Council.

  17. Added following areas where both surge testing and additional support is being provided: Birmingham City Council, Blackpool Council, Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, and Warrington Borough Council. Made following changes to areas where surge testing is being carried out: added Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, and Staffordshire County Council; removed Sefton Council, Hampshire County Council, Warwickshire County Council and Derbyshire County Council.

  18. Updated to include areas where the new COVID-19 variant is spreading fasted. These areas include: Bedford Borough Council, Leicester City Council, London Borough of Hounslow, North Tyneside Council, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, Lancashire County Council, Burnley, Chorley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Lancaster, Pendle, Preston, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire, Wyre, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Kirklees Council. Calderdale Council added to the list of areas carrying out surge testing.

  19. Updated to include targeted areas in Reading Borough Council, Wokingham Borough Council and City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, and Derbyshire County Council (targeted testing across Gamesley Ward, High Peak) in the locations using surge testing. Removed the following locations: Bedford Borough Council, London Borough of Hounslow, North Tyneside Council, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Bolton Council, Lancashire County Council and Kirklees Council. Added information and guidance about the Delta variant, B1.617.2.

  20. Updated the locations using surge testing as follows: amended Bedford Borough Council and Hillingdon Council; added Hampshire County Council (targeted areas across the Hart District, Rushmoor Borough and the Surrey border), Kirklees Council, Lancashire County Council, London Borough of Hounslow, and North Tyneside Council; removed Hackney Council, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and Worcestershire County Council.

  21. Updated to include targeted areas in Brent Council, Ealing Council and Harrow Council, and further targeted areas in Hillingdon in the locations using surge testing.

  22. Updated to include Bedford Borough Council (Kingsbrook, Cauldwell and Queens Park areas and the village of Wixams) in the locations using surge testing.

  23. Updated to include Warwickshire County Council (targeted areas within Nuneaton) in the locations using surge testing.

  24. Updated to include Hackney Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council in the locations using surge testing, and to remove London borough of Hounslow and Tower Hamlets Council.

  25. Updated to include Sefton Council (targeted in Formby) in the locations using surge testing, and to remove Birmingham City Council.

  26. Updated to include the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (targeted areas within the W11 postcode) and Worcestershire County Council (targeted areas in Redditch) in the locations using surge testing.

  27. Updated to include Hillingdon Council (targeted areas within the HA4 postcode in Ruislip) and Bolton Council (targeted areas within the BL3 postcode) in the locations using surge testing and to remove Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council from the locations.

  28. Updated to include London Borough of Hounslow (targeted in and around the Woodlands area of Hounslow) and Tower Hamlets Council (targeted areas within E1 postcodes) in the locations using surge testing.

  29. Updated to include Redbridge Council (targeted areas within the IG1 and IG6 postcode areas and small parts of the IG5 and IG7 postcode areas) in the locations using surge testing.

  30. Updated to remove all London areas from the locations that are using surge testing and removed all locations that have completed surge testing.

  31. Updated to include Birmingham City Council (Alum Rock, and Glebe Farm and Tile Cross wards) in the locations using surge testing.

  32. Updated to include Birmingham City Council (Sandwell and Ladywood, Jewellery Quarter and Soho wards) and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (B66 3, B66 4 and B67 6) in the locations using surge testing, and to reflect that London Borough of Harrow, South Harrow (specific areas within HA2 postcode) has completed surge testing.

  33. Updated to include London Borough of Barnet (specific areas within N3 postcode) in the locations using surge testing, and to reflect that Bolton Council (area of Wingates Industrial Estate within BL5 postcode) has completed surge testing.

  34. Updated to include specific areas in the London boroughs of Hillingdon and Southwark and the whole boroughs of Lambeth and Wandsworth.

  35. Updated to reflect that the London Borough of Haringey (specific areas within N10 and N11), the London Borough of Harrow, North Harrow and Wealdstone (specific areas within the HA2 and HA3 postcodes), Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (specific areas within the DY4 7, DY4 8 and B69 2 postcodes) and Staffordshire County Council (Stafford District) have completed surge testing.

  36. Updated to include Bolton Council (area of Wingates Industrial Estate in the BL5 postcode) in the locations using surge testing, and to reflect that the London Borough of Southwark (specific area in SE5) and London Borough of Wandsworth (specific areas in SW11 and SW15) have completed surge testing.

  37. Updated to include N11 in the London Borough of Haringey in the locations using surge testing, and reflect that specific areas within N2 and NW4 in the London Borough of Barnet, and specific areas within North Wembley in the London Borough of Brent, have completed surge testing.

  38. Updated to reflect that Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (specific areas within TS19) has completed surge testing.

  39. Section on 'locations using surge testing' updated to include specific areas within N10 for London Borough of Haringey and London Borough of Barnet.

  40. Updated to include Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (specific areas within the DY4 7, DY4 8 and B69 2 postcodes).

  41. Updated to include the London Borough of Harrow (specific areas within the HA2 and HA3 postcodes), the London Borough of Southwark (specific location within the SE5 postcode) and Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (specific areas within TS19), and reflect that the London Borough of Lambeth (specific areas in the SW8 and SW9 postcodes) and South Gloucestershire Council (within postcodes BS32 0, BS32 8, BS32 9, BS34 5 and BS34 6) have completed surge testing.

  42. Updated to include the London Borough of Wandsworth (specific areas within the SW11 and SW15 postcodes), and to reflect that the London Borough of Croydon (specific areas within the CR0 postcode, and specific areas within South Norwood and Thornton Heath) and the London Borough of Redbridge (Loxford and Clementswood wards) have completed surge testing.

  43. Updated to include the London Borough of Brent (specific areas within North Wembley) and specific areas within South Norwood and Thornton Heath in the London Borough of Croydon, and reflect that the Wimbledon Park area in the London Borough of Merton has completed surge testing.

  44. Updated to reflect that Essex County Council (CM13 postcode area) and Norfolk County Council (specific areas in IP22) have completed surge testing.

  45. Updated to reflect that Manchester City Council (areas in M9 and M40) have completed surge testing.

  46. Updated to include London Borough of Redbridge (Loxford and Clementswood wards).

  47. Updated to include specific areas in the London Borough of Barnet, London Borough of Merton, and South Gloucestershire Council, and reflect that specific areas in Buckinghamshire Council and Leeds City Council have completed surge testing.

  48. Updated to reflect that Manchester City Council (areas in M14, M15 and M16), Middlesbrough Council (areas in TS7 and TS8) and Walsall Council (Pleck ward) have completed surge testing.

  49. Updated to include London Borough of Lambeth (areas in SW8 and SW9) and Buckinghamshire Council areas in HP10); to reflect that Bristol City Council (areas in BS1, BS2, BS3, BS4, BS5, BS6, BS8, BS9, BS14 and BS16), London Borough of Ealing areas in and near W7), London Borough of Lambeth (areas in SE27 and SW16) and South Gloucestershire Council (areas in BS16 and BS37) have completed surge testing; and to note that the London Borough of Ealing is to get further testing as additional cases of the variant first identified in South Africa have been found there.

  50. Updated to include Essex County Council (CM13) and London Borough of Croydon (areas in CR0), and to reflect that Birmingham City Council (areas in and near to the B31), Hampshire County Council (areas in RG26 postcode), Metropolitan Borough of Sefton (Dukes and Cambridge wards), Surrey County Council (GU22), Southampton City Council (areas SO15) and Worcestershire County Council (specific areas in and near to the WR3 postcode) have completed surge testing.

  51. Updated to include Norfolk County Council (areas in IP22), Metropolitan Borough of Sefton (Dukes and Cambridge wards), Southampton City Council (areas in SO15), Surrey City Council (areas in SO15), Walsall (Pleck ward) and Leeds City Council (areas in LS8 and LS9), and to reflect that Metropolitan Borough of Sefton (Norwood), London Borough of Haringey (N17), London Borough of Merton (Pollards Hill) and Walsall Council (in and near to the WS2) have completed surge testing.

  52. The Middlesborough entry amended to add a postcode area, to read: 'within parts of the TS7 and TS8 areas of Middlesbrough'

  53. Updated to include Hampshire County Council and Middlesborough Council, and to reflect that Kent (ME15), Surrey (GU21 and TW20) and Hertfordshire (EN10) County Councils have completed surge testing.

  54. First published.