Enhanced COVID testing

We are urging everyone in Harrow to do all they can to prevent the spread of COVID following a small number of cases of the South African variant.

Enhanced COVID testing or ‘surge testing' (also known as a PCR test) is being offered to residents aged 16 and over who live on certain streets within the areas below:

  • South Harrow
  • Roxbourne and
  • Roxeth

These tests will help us to establish whether the South African variant is present in our community. The more people who test, the better the chance we have of slowing and stopping its spread.

What happens if I live in an affected area?

If you live on a particular street within an affected area we will be delivering leaflets through your door this week to let you know if we will be visiting your home again with a home testing kit.

We will be visiting both residential and commercial properties in the affected areas.

You can view which streets will be receiving home testing kits by viewing the maps below:

The home testing kit delivery team will:

  • be carrying 'Number 8 Events Ltd' ID badges
  • be wearing a blue vest reading "test centre"
  • be wearing appropriate PPE and maintain a safe distance from you
  • explain how to take the test and register it

The home testing kit delivery team will not:

  • ask you for any personal information
  • ask for you to pay for anything
  • enter your property

Can I still book a Rapid COVID test?

Residents not asked to take part in enhanced testing can still book a Rapid COVID test, providing they feel well.

It is recommended that if you are travelling for work or if you have children in school that you take a Rapid COVID test twice weekly.   

If you have any symptoms of COVID including:

  • fever
  • continuous cough
  • a change in sense of taste or smell

Do not book a Rapid COVID test, instead you must self-isolate at home with other members of your household and book a test online or by calling 119.

Book a Rapid COVID test


For more information about COVID please visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Key questions on enhanced COVID testing

How will I know the person knocking at my door is working for you?

Our staff are contracted from London Borough of Harrow. They will all have ID from Number 8 Events Ltd on them. They will be wearing a “Test Centre” blue high visibility vest, be wearing appropriate PPE and will maintain a safe distance.

What personal details will a volunteer ask me for?

They will not ask for any personal information. They won’t ask for any banking information. They will not ask you to pay for anything. They will not require access to your property.

I heard you’d be knocking on doors in my area, but no-one called at my house.

We have identified an area around those postcodes across the country where the variant has been identified.  However, we do not anticipate the need to test everyone who live within that postcode. 

London Borough of Harrow and public health officials have determined the localities to be tested based on scientific guidelines. 

They will contact you if you need to be tested.  In addition to delivering door to door home test kits, Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) will be available in the area.

How can I get tested?

If you have COVID symptoms you should continue to get tested using the existing testing channels – by ordering a home kit for people with symptoms or going to a symptomatic test sites in your local areas.

For testing to detect the new variant, Mobile Testing Units will be deployed in local areas for those people who are leaving their house for work or essential shopping.

It is important that residents in new variant testing areas remain at home and follow lockdown rules, therefore home testing kits will also be provided. 

When will my doorstep test be collected?

We aim to pick up tests from households within 2-3 hours.

How often will people get tested?

We are asking people to take one test in a two-week period.

Who can get tested?

We will aim to test as many people within these areas who are aged 16 and over who is asymptomatic.  

Does testing hurt? What will I have to do if I have a home kit?

No. Some people find it slightly uncomfortable but that’s all. You need to push a swab up your nose and another one down your throat and then pop them into the container provided. Instructions are included in the kit.

Can I refuse a test?

Yes, testing is voluntary. We would urge you to take the opportunity if you are offered it. Testing will help us to find the virus, stop it being shared, and protect our community.

How long will it be before I get the results of my test?

As with all PCR tests results should be back within 48 hours, but in most cases they are usually back within 24 hours. 

However the initial result will only determine if you have coronavirus.  Further analysis needs to be undertaken to isolate the SA variant. 

We will notify you if you have the SA variant in due course however the rules for self-isolation remain the same regardless of the variant.  

I have a common cold. Will the test still work?

Yes it will still work.

Doesn’t more testing result in more positives, meaning we’ll all be in lockdown for longer?

No. More testing will help us find the virus and stop it being spread and multiplying.

How do I find out if doorstep testing will be coming to my area?

Households will receive a doorstep test and will have received a leaflet telling them to expect such a test.

What if I have been in one of these areas recently?

Everyone should continue to follow the national guidance and book a PCR test if they develop symptoms.

We are in a nearby postcode, can we get tested?

We are focusing testing on those areas where we know we have confirmed cases of the variant. But anyone in the local area who is concerned of course can get a test.

Is the variant of concern the one that was first identified in South Africa?

We believe that it is, but we are conducting additional testing to properly sequence and identify the scale of any transmission.

Am I more at risk if I have the SA variant?

At present there is no evidence to suggest that this variant is any more severe than others.

Does this variant spread more easily?

Viruses often evolve and this is not unusual. We know that this variant is more transmissible. Public Health England are carrying out work as a priority to understand the potential risk this variant may cause.

Is this variant more deadly?

There is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.

Should people be worried?

It is right that we should be cautious about new variants, we appreciate that people may be anxious in the current climate.

We are constantly on the lookout for any new variants, our ability to identify any early will allow us to deploy public health interventions to keep people safe.

We are investigating this new variant of virus which originated in South Africa. Viruses often evolve and this is not unusual.

We are carrying out work as a priority to understand the potential risk this variant may cause. It is important to say that there is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness, or that the regulated vaccine would not protect against it.

The best way to stop infection is to stick to the rules – wash our hands, wear a face covering and keep our distance from others.

Should I still get a test if I have had the vaccine?

We are offering testing to everyone aged 16 and over – even if you have been vaccinated

Does the COVID vaccine protect against this variant?

PHE are continuing efforts to understand the effect of the variants on vaccine efficacy and there is currently no evidence to suggest that vaccines will be ineffective.

What is a PCR a test?

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests check for the genetic material (RNA) of the virus in the sample. The sample is tested in a laboratory.

Will the standard PCR tests identify this variant?


Are we excluding people who have tested positive for PCR in the last 90 days – as per current PCR testing guidance?

If you have tested positive for PCR within the last 90 days, you will not need to be tested unless you are already part of an existing pilot e.g. workplace.

Why are you using the PCR and not the quicker Lateral Flow test?

PCR tests to carry out genomic sequencing and tell us which variant of coronavirus is present, genome sequencing cannot be done on Lateral flow devices.

What is genomic sequencing?

Genomic sequencing is the process of testing a sample of the virus in order to map its genetic sequence. This is happening as part of continued surveillance studies to identify any new variants of virus that causes COVID-19.  

Will PCR/LFTs detect it?

There is no evidence so far that PCR or LFT tests are unable to detect this variant. Research is ongoing to confirm this. PHE has requested a sample of the virus in order to perform tests in the laboratory . PCR tests do not distinguish between the variants.

Is this testing being offered in schools?

The test is offered to residents 16 years and over, this is not a schools-based initiative. Existing testing will continue in educational settings. We are offering testing to everyone aged 16 and over as cases are most likely to be detected in this age-group.

I have a relative in a care home locally – will they need to be tested too?

Regular testing is already routinely carried out in all care home settings.  Therefore we will identify anyone in these settings with the new variant through our normal practices.