Covid-19 restrictions

We are now moving through the Prime Ministers roadmap out of lockdown. Everyone must stay local and follow the rules, including the rule of six. Remember, shop safe and shop local and stay outside when meeting others – fresh air reduces the risk of passing Covid-19 on.

More information on current restrictions and guidelines is available on the government website.

Remember, advice around Covid-19 can change, so keep up to date with the latest information.

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Covid-19 variants

Covid-19 variants of concern in Tower Hamlets

A small number of Coronavirus (Covid-19) variants of concern have been identified in Tower Hamlets. These variants of concern were first identified in Brazil and South Africa.

Something is a variant of concern if it is not known whether it will spread more easily, cause more severe disease, or may not be supported by vaccinations - testing helps us learn more.

Areas variants have been identified

These variants have been identified in the area around E1 4 and E1 3 and some of E1 0, E1 1, E1 2, E1 5, E14 7, E2 0, E2 6, E3 4.

These areas include parts of Bethnal Green, Stepney Green, St Peters and St Dunstan’s wards.

Check your postcode

You can check your postcode here and check if you are being asked to get a test.

To help us contain these variants of concern, we are strongly encouraging everyone aged 11-years-old and over in these areas to get tested, even if they don’t have symptoms. To help people we are making tests more easily available for people in these areas.

Everyone who lives, works or visits these areas should take a test.

Additional testing in the area

Additional test units are available:

  • Bethnal Green Gardens, Cambridge Heath Rd, Bethnal Green, London E2 0HL - between 9am and 3pm

  • Corner of Mile End Road and White Horse Lane between 10.30 – 5.00pm

The test site at Gouldman House, E1 4HQ, has now moved.

PCR home testing tests will be available for collection and return at the sites below from 12pm to 6pm:

  1. Bethnal Green Gardens, off Cambridge Heath Road, immediately in front of Bethnal Green Library, E2 0HL.
  2. Anchor Retail Park, 123 Mile End Rd, Stepney Green, London E1 4UJ, opposite the turning for Stepney Green.
  3. Corner of Redmans Road and Stepney Green, north of Stepney Green Park, E1 3NG.
  4. Tramshed Community Hub on Digby Street, E2 0LS (behind Albert Jacob House).

People can also book a test online, through the NHS Covid-19 app or by calling 119. If you have symptoms you must book a test via the national portal.

The nearest test sites to the areas are:

  • Idea Store Watney Market, 260 Commercial Street, E1 2FB
  • Ecology Pavilion, Grove Rd, Bow, London E3 5TW

Appointments at these test sites can be booked online..


Help is available

Anyone with questions can contact the council’s helpline on 020 7364 3030 (9am to 5pm including the bank holiday weekend). The helpline can also provide information on support available for those who may need to isolate.

The more cases of the variant we find, the better chance we have of containing it. Please help to keep your community safe by getting tested so we can find the variant and protect you and your loved ones.

Frequently asked questions, to provide more information about surge testing

What is happening around surge testing in Tower Hamlets?

A number of cases of Coronavirus (Covid-19) variants of concern have been identified in some parts of Tower Hamlets. These variants of concern were first identified in Brazil and South Africa.

What is surge testing?

Surge testing is increased testing and enhanced contact tracing in specific locations in England. It involves testing of people who do not have any symptoms of coronavirus.

Why are you surge testing?

Extensive surveillance of coronavirus has identified a number of cases of Covid-19 variants of concern in Tower Hamlets. We are using surge testing to:

  • monitor and suppress the spread of coronavirus
  • better understand variants

It is not yet known just how readily these variants can spread, whether they can cause more severe disease, or if they can evade the vaccines - testing helps us learn more.

Who needs to get a test?

These variants have been identified around an area that includes parts of Bethnal Green, Stepney Green, St Peters and St Dunstan’s wards.

To help us contain these variants of concern, we are strongly encouraging everyone over the age of 11 in these areas to get tested, even if they don’t have symptoms.

You can check your postcode here to find out if you are being asked to get a test.

What type of test is it?

The test people are being asked to take is called a PCR swab test. A test can be done at a test site or people can take a test kit home from a collection site and return it to that site once you have taken the test. More information is available on the government website.

Do I need to take a test if I’ve been vaccinated?

Yes. Although vaccination does protect against serious disease and transmission, no vaccine is 100 per cent effective so people could still be infected or carrying the Covid-19 virus.

I’ve got Covid-19 symptoms, what should I do?

Anyone with any of the below symptoms should order a test kit to be sent to your home or book an appointment at a test site online or by calling 119.

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed

Does someone without any symptoms still need to take a test?

Yes. To help contain these variants of concern, we are strongly encouraging everyone over the age of 11 in the defined areas to get tested, even if they don’t have symptoms.

Does everyone in Tower Hamlets need to get tested too?

No, not in the rest of the borough.  There is a small number of cases confirmed as the variants of concern, and all who have been identified are self-isolating.

There are targeted communications in parts of Bethnal Green and Stepney to encourage people to get tested and a letter was sent to all residents in the area.

If in doubt about whether you need to take a test, you should take a precautionary test.

What are Covid-19 variants of concern?

All viruses naturally mutate over time, and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 disease, is no exception. Over time, changes can build up in the genetic code of the virus, and these new viral variants can be passed from person to person. Most of the time the changes are so small that they have little impact on the virus.

However, every so often a virus mutates in a way that benefits it, for example allowing it to spread more quickly, and causes us to be concerned about changes in the way the virus might behave. In this case the variant may be considered a variant of concern by the UK government.

Are variants of concern more dangerous?

Most virus variants are not a cause for concern. Some may be more easily spread between people and some may be more resistant to the vaccines we currently have available.

The way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant. It will not spread if we avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and reduce your social contacts.