Column by leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Toby Savage.

You will have seen the publicity about the ‘Surge Testing’ taking place in parts of South Gloucestershire and Bristol, as we step up our work to identify cases of Covid in the area. This is in response to cases of the variant of the Kent strain of the disease, which is understood to be potentially more infectious than some other forms of the coronavirus.

This should not be a source of alarm for residents, but it does underline the importance of us all following the guidance in place for the lockdown: To stay home unless it is essential that we go out, to act as though we have the virus and limit our contact with others, and to always remember to observe Hands Face Space to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe.

The reason we are carrying out the Surge testing is because a number of cases of the new variant have been detected in our area. We need to do this surge testing so that we can identify people with Covid, of any variant, among those with no symptoms, so that they can self-isolate. All of these tests are also being sent off for genomic sequencing, which means that scientists can find out exactly which variant of the disease people have, so that nationally we can learn more about the disease and stem the spread.

We have implemented the Surge Testing very quickly and are continuing to develop the programme so that we can reach everyone in the affected areas. We have set up new testing sites for people to drive or walk to. We have followed this up by introducing pick-up/drop-off points in some of our libraries and we are also rolling out the programme to affected communities in some of our rural areas, with additional pick-up/drop-off points. We will also be reaching out to those we know may struggle to get out to access a test, with the option of delivering a test to you. Details of this scheme will be announced as soon as possible.

We know that thanks to everyone’s efforts, the Lockdown has been having a positive effect on cases of Covid locally. We also know that this extra testing will unearth more cases among those who have not shown any symptoms. The past year has shown that we can make a difference when we work together and I know that if we continue to stay the course, with the vaccine being given to more and more people every day, we will eventually turn the corner on this illness and be able to move forward together.

For people living in South Gloucestershire, if your postcode begins with the following, we would like you to take part in the Surge Testing programme: BS16 1, BS16 2, BS16 5, BS16 6, BS16 7, BS16 9, BS37 8. The Surge Testing programme is being developed very quickly and the latest information is always available at our website,