People living in the eight areas of the UK hit by the South African strain of Covid said today they will ignore the government’s advice to stay home if they run out of food.
Residents said they will defy Universities Minister Michelle Donelan’s orders to stay indoors and they would be prepared to go out to buy groceries if they had to.
It follows long queues stretching around the block at testing centres in eight postcodes this morning as 350,000 Britons rushed to get checked as quickly as possible.
In Ealing, West London, Jasbir Dhaliwal, 46, who had just had a test for the variant, questioned the guidance to eat up tins and leftovers rather than go out food shopping.
Members of the public pictured queuing to take a coronavirus test at a temporary Covid-19 testing facility set up in Ealing, West London
Mike Wallace, who is a South African living in Woking, Surrey, is helped to take the test in his front room by his wife Natasha. They were among 9,000 people in the area happy to be tested
Residents said they will defy orders from Universities Minister Michelle Donelan (pictured above) to stay indoors and they would be prepared to go out to buy groceries if they had to
She said: ‘I’ve got loads of tinned and packet things like soup, baked beans pasta and noodles and my freezer is packed with stuff for the kids, like chips sausages and fish fingers.
‘I’ve also got loads of fresh vegetables and other ingredients to make Indian food, like lentils, chickpeas and big bags of rice. But that’s not because of the pandemic, I always do a big shop as there are quite a lot of us at home.’
She added: ‘I can understand why the Government is saying this, but I can’t see people sticking to it because getting a delivery is not easy, which means a lot of people will have to go out to buy food.’
Ali Kelly, 50 said: ‘I actually stopped going to the shops for food a few weeks ago and now get home deliveries.
‘I’ve got a good selection of fresh vegetables, frozen things and plenty of drink. I’m not sure how practical the Government’s advice is on not going out food shopping.
‘People need to eat, and they will be forced to go to the shops because not everybody can get their shopping delivered.’
Warehouse worker Roberto Ventura said: ‘I’m Italian so I have lots of pasta at home and am unlikely to run out soon. I’ve got chicken and mincemeat in the fridge, tinned tomatoes, and some fresh vegetables and lots of fruit, apples, oranges, bananas, and grapes.
‘Once the fresh stuff runs out, I’ll have to go out to buy some more. Most people have to shop at least once a week and I don’t think that’s going to change, whatever the Government wants us to do.’
Michael Rees, 60 admitted that he had ‘nipped out’ to local shops along a busy West Ealing high street and did not know about the Government’s latest advice but he was aware of the South African strain being detected in the area.
He said: ‘I live on my own and don’t keep a lot of food at home. I mainly buy pies, sausages, chips, a few vegetables, and some pre-cooked meals. It’s not the best diet but it’s all I can afford.
Carol Hall (pictured), from Ealing, West London, was up bright and early and at her testing centre at 9am. The BBC worker said the experience wasn’t pleasant, but urged others to do it
Long queues formed along West Ealing’s high street this morning near a pop up testing centre as people in the area were eager to get themselves tested for the mutant South African strain
‘I don’t have the money to do a big shop. When this food runs out, I’ll have to return to go out to buy more. I don’t care what the Government says.’
Meanwhile in Woking, Surrey, where swab tests were today delivered by volunteers to 9,000 homes, vans from Sainsbury’s and Tesco made frequent drop offs of online orders throughout the day.
Karen Woodward, a mother-of-two, said: ‘I’m not sure how easy it will be to stay at home completely for two weeks. Essentials like milk and eggs have to be bought at least once a week, so I will have to go out’
David Cutlen said he isn’t registered for online deliveries and so he will continue to go to his local supermarket once a week to stock up.
The comments come after online booking systems for tests were scrapped with residents in eight areas around the country encouraged to simply turn up in a desperate attempt by authorities to keep track of its spread.
Kim Taylor in Woking, Surrey, opens wide for one of 9,000 door to door swab tests today
Door to door testing was also taking place in the affected districts as health officials joined forces with local police, councillors and firefighters to visit thousands of homes.
In Ealing, West London, a BBC worker at the front of the queue at 9am winced as she plunged a swab to the back of her throat while being tested.
Carol Hall arrived at a special testing site manned by volunteers off the high street at West Ealing.
Ms Hall, a BBC researcher, arrived at the variant testing centre, located in a car park beside West Ealing’s busy high street, 15 minutes before it opened at 9am.
She told MailOnline: ‘I live outside the affected area but do all my shopping in it, which is why I got myself tested.
‘The test caused me a bit of discomfort. You have to shove the the stick all the way back to your tonsils. It made me cough and gag but then so was everybody else. It’s not pleasant but it’s very minor discomfort.’
She added: ‘I feel fine now and am glad that I’ve had the test.’
Ms Hall said that she is still going into the office twice a week, which also influenced her decision to get tested as soon as news of the South African strain in the West London suburb emerged.
An estimated 5,500 households in the W7 and W13 postcode areas of the borough have been identified as being in the affected area, after a local man tested positive for the South African strain even though he had not left the country.
A team of volunteers are briefed this morning at Woking Fire Station before collecting bags of swab tests to deliver them to homes in homes in the St Johns and Goldsworth Park areas
Following guidance from Surrey County Council’s Health and Safety team, the volunteers delivered the swabs and told residents to leave them out for collection three hours later
Residents expressed concerns at news of the strain in their local community, with many revealing that they had come to get a test as soon as they heard about it.
Adil Shah, 42, a Transport for London manager, said: ‘I left work so that I could come and get a test and the rest of my family are going to come later today.
‘I had Covid last year and news of this strain is very worrying. I’ve been taking all the precautions that I can, but you just never know what or who you might have come into contact with so it’s important for us all to get this test.’
Average waiting times in the queue were almost 45 minutes, with the actual test taking no longer than five minutes.
Coffee shop worker Alexandra Nagy, 28, said: ‘I’ve just slipped away from work after finding out about this. Of course, I’m worried because I live and work locally.
‘The queue is getting longer and it’s going to get busier through the day so that’s why I thought I’d get here early.’
Officials have revealed that those who are unable to get to the testing centre will receive home testing kits, which they will start distributing from Wednesday.
Ben Chambers, 50, who had been waiting in the queue for more than 30 minutes said: ‘I know some elderly people and those who are shielding. It’s alright for the likes of me to come to this testing centre, but what about the others who can’t get out.
‘The Council need to make sure that everybody in the borough is tested not just those in the affected area. I’m sure the person who was found to have the South African strain didn’t just move around in one part of the borough.’
In Woking before starting the door to door tests to 9,000 homes in the St Johns and Goldsworth Park areas, volunteers were given a detailed safety briefing from a member of Surrey County Council’s Health and Safety team.
They were told to hand deliver the swab test kits and tell residents the swabs collected within three hours.
A drop box would be left on the doorstep and those tested to place the vial containing a swab into the box.
Among the first to receive a testing kit delivered to his front door was retired engineer David Woodhead, 75, seen receiving his test this morning. He said testing was ‘a really good thing’
Despite the seriousness of the situation, one resident at a sheltered housing accommodation block attempted to lighten the mood by answering his front door wearing a clown mask
Volunteers were told not to handle the vials to avoid any possible infection from the mutant strain.
Among the first to receive a testing kit delivered to his front door was retired engineer David Woodhead.
The 75-year-old said he was more than happy to take part in the testing – but was worried that he lives in an area where the mutant South African strain has been found.
A volunteer dropped off the swab test kit in a sealed grey package. Inside was a swab and a mini test tube for the tips of the swab to be deposited.
David said: ‘This is a really good thing, and hopefully it will help root out this South African strain.
‘I’ve had one PCR test before when I had to go to Ashford Hospital for a MRI.
‘I have only been going out once a week to Sainsbury to do my shopping and have been staying inside. I’ll continue to stay indoors until this is all over.’
The streets around Mr Woodhead’s terraced home were deserted as residents heeded the earlier warning of Universities Minister Michelle Donelan to stay indoors.
Volunteers were going door to door in the to hand out PCR swab tests to as many as 9,000 people.
Until the testing has been completed residents have been urged to stay indoors and even avoid going out shopping by Universities Minister Michelle Donelan.
Trevor Martin, 70, was one of the few people walking through the St Johns area having visited a local store.
People in Southport, Merseyside, queued up for an hour in the rain only to be disappointed when they were told that the South African test kits were not available until tomorrow
He said:’ I’m quite happy to stay indoors. No one wants to get this virus. I’ve just popped out to get some essential food from a store.
‘I think most people will stick to the rules. We all have to play along and do out part.’
Another resident, who popped outside of her home to smoke a cigarette, said she would happily stay indoors until the mutant strain has been wiped out.
‘We have come so far it is silly to catch the virus now. I have been in a bubble with an 80 year old and all her shopping is done online by a friend.
‘If I can avoid going out I will. Two weeks or so is not a long time and we are so used to being in lockdown in doesn’t matter that much.’
About 30 people were in the first wave of volunteers going door to door in St Johns. Others will follow after being given a health and safety briefing.
In Sutton Place, one of the first roads to be targeted, the street was eerily quiet.
The only sound came from distant shotguns being fired at the Bisley shooting range.
Residents peered out from their windows as the volunteers in high vis jackets went door to door.