Coronavirus: Personnel Run New Mobile Testing Units Across UK

Military personnel have started operating mobile coronavirus testing units, travelling to care homes, police stations and prisons across the UK as the Government tries to hit its target of 100,000 tests each day.

British Army soldiers and Royal Marines have been operating facilities across the country, as well as personnel training to operate the pop-up sites.

Mobile sites have been working in locations such as Lincolnshire, Salisbury and Watford since the weekend.

The units are testing essential workers and vulnerable people in areas where there is "significant" demand, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

The pop-up units, which were first rolled out last week, are the result of a pilot scheme which saw DHSC vehicles refitted as testing facilities based on a design developed by the Royal Engineers. 

Watch: Personnel man mobile testing facilities on the Isle of Wight.

Specially-trained members of the Armed Forces are able to collect swabs from those unable to drive or in isolation.

Samples will then be sent to "mega-labs" for processing, with results available within 48 hours.

Although the military developed the units, it was originally stated personnel would not operate them - a decision now reversed.

The DHSC maintains "at least" 96 mobile units will be ready to be deployed by May.

The Armed Forces will man 92 units, with four in Northern Ireland operated by civilian contractors.

There are currently 11 mobile testing sites operational in the UK, as well as 40 drive-through facilities.

It is expected the latter figure will increase to 48 by the end of April.

Each site is testing hundreds of people each day.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "Our armed forces will help deliver testing to where it’s most needed, using a network of up to 96 mobile units that will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

"They will make sure our care sector get the testing required to remain in the front line of the fight against this pandemic."

National testing coordinator Professor John Newton added: "New mobile testing units will help us achieve our goal of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day, providing tests to vital frontline workers wherever they need them.

"In a matter of weeks, we have worked with Britain’s leading scientists, academics and industry partners to build scores of new testing facilities and Britain’s largest network of diagnostic labs in history."

More than 10 million key workers and their households are now eligible for COVID-19 tests, which can now be booked online through the Government’s website.

Cover image: MOD.

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