People are queueing up outside testing centres in Worcester after a “small number” of cases of the South African variant of coronavirus were detected in the area.
The cases of the new variant could not be traced back to international travel, suggesting it may have begun to spread within the community.
Adults living within the WR3 postcode and some parts of WR9 were encouraged to get tested for coronavirus urgently, and a mobile testing unit was set up in the car park of the White Hart pub, in the Fernhill Heath area of Worcester.
Those who are over 18, do not have symptoms and live within walking distance are eligible for a test.
A drive-through testing site is due to open in coming days, and authorities will also begin door-to-door testing. Those who are clinically vulnerable to coronavirus are being advised not to go to the testing site, with testing kits due to be delivered to them at home in the coming days.
Dr Kathryn Cobain, the director for public health in the county, urged “everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant”.
The testing in Worcester is part of a programme of surge testing across England, which began on Monday in areas where cases of the variant had been discovered and were not linked to international travel.
It came after 11 cases of the South African variant were identified in people who had no links to travel. As part of the programme, positive test results will be sent to labs to be genome sequenced, enabling scientists to identify the variant. This process takes about a fortnight.
By Thursday night, about 10,000 people in Maidstone, Kent, had been tested as part of the surge testing programme. In Woking, Surrey, surge testing was due to finish on Friday, with door-to-door testing in Egham and Thorpe expected to begin on Saturday.
In the Midlands, about 10,300 people in Walsall have been tested so far and 560 tests had been administered in areas of Birmingham, the West Midlands combined authority was told.
Efforts are also under way in the Norwood area of Southport, in Merseyside, to identify the variant, Sefton council said, and surge testing in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, is being rolled out for an extra week until 12 February, the council said.
Mobile testing units and home-testing kits have also been sent out to Hanwell and Mitchem, in west and south London respectively, while testing is continuing in Tottenham, north London.