How ‘surge testing’ and genomic sequencing are being used in locations in England where coronavirus (COVID-19) variants have been identified.
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.
In areas where the new COVID-19 variant first identified in India, also known as the Delta variant, is spreading fastest, there is additional guidance available to help stop the spread and there may also be targeted activity to drive vaccine uptake amongst eligible cohorts.
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
Extensive surveillance of COVID-19 has identified a number of cases of COVID-19 variants and mutations of concern in England.
The government is using surge testing and genomic sequencing to:
monitor and suppress the spread of COVID-19
better understand new variants
See latest numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants of concern and variants under investigation, published by Public Health England.
Areas where the new COVID-19 variant is spreading fastest
In these areas, as well as deploying surge testing, we are delivering additional support, such as targeted activity to drive vaccine uptake. There may be additional advice for your area - find out what you need to do.
- Leicester City Council (Leicester is conducting a local programme of targeted testing)
- Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
- Blackpool Council
- Cheshire East Council
- Cheshire West and Chester 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)
- Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral, Liverpool City)
- Warrington Borough Council
Yorkshire and the Humber
Locations using surge testing
Surge testing is currently being carried out in specific and targeted locations within the following local authority areas:
- Brent Council (targeted areas)
- Ealing Council (targeted areas)
- Harrow Council (targeted areas)
- Hillingdon Council (targeted areas)
- Redbridge Council (targeted areas within the IG1 and IG6 postcode areas and small parts of the IG5 and IG7 postcode areas)
- Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (targeted areas)
- Reading Borough Council (targeted areas)
- Wokingham Borough Council (targeted areas)
- Slough Borough Council (targeted areas)
- Bracknell Forest Council (targeted areas)
- Staffordshire County Council (targeted areas)
Yorkshire and the Humber
- City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council (targeted areas)
- Calderdale Council (targeted areas across Todmorden, Park and Warley wards)
The list is updated regularly.
If your local authority is carrying out surge testing, you can visit your local authority website to find out exactly where testing is being targeted.
Enhanced testing for variants may be happening on a more targeted basis or within specific settings in other areas. If you need to take part you will be informed by your local council.
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
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 follow the national restrictions and check with your local authority whether you should get a test. Please note there may be additional advice for your area due to the variant.
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 test positive with a PCR test, your test will be sent to a laboratory for genomic sequencing.
You must isolate with your household and follow the guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infections. 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.
Positive PCR tests from institutions within these specific locations, such as care homes, will also be sent for genomic sequencing.
If you test negative you should continue to follow the national restrictions.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, it is important that you get a test for people with symptoms online, via the NHS COVID-19 app or by calling 119.
You must isolate with your household and follow the guidance for households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infections until you get your result.
Continue to follow national restrictions
National restrictions still apply.
If you live within one of the areas on this page, there may be additional advice for your area. Find out what you need to do.
You should continue to work from home where you can.
If you live in an area deploying surge testing you should get tested.