Coronavirus

Coronavirus: Military Start Supporting Liverpool Testing Pilot

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the testing pilot "has the potential to be a powerful new weapon in our fight against COVID-19".

Military personnel have started supporting a mass coronavirus testing pilot in Liverpool.

Earlier this morning, vehicles carrying military personnel left Pontins Southport Holiday Park for testing sites in the city.

More than 2,000 troops from the British Army, Royal Navy and RAF are all helping with the logistics and delivery of the programme.

Soldiers from 8 Engineer Brigade, 1 Yorkshire Regiment, the King’s Royal Hussars, 19 Regiment Royal Artillery, 1st Battalion Irish Guards, 39 Regiment Royal Engineers, 1 Rifles and other units drawn from the British Army arrived at the holiday park on Thursday.

In total, 16 units from over 20 locations have come together to support the mass-testing in the city.

Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch, Commander of Standing Joint Command, told Forces News: "Honestly, it’s extraordinary what the Armed Forces has been able to deliver here, so I’m really proud of all these people, they’ve done a great job.

"I can’t believe how well it’s gone, I genuinely can’t, this is quite a complicated thing."

It is expected the pilot will have the capacity to carry out up to 450,000 tests a week on people living or working in Liverpool.

Six rapid turnaround, ‘lateral flow’ testing sites started running in the city from midday.

It sees swabs placed into a liquid, enabling people to get results quicker.

Military personnel arrived at the holiday park in Southport on Thursday ahead of the start of the coronavirus testing pilot (Picture: PA).

Liverpool City Council is encouraging people without coronavirus symptoms to visit those six sites, while asking those with symptoms to visit other testing centres.

Other mobile testing units are also expected to open in the city.

The pilot scheme – set to last two weeks – comes after a second nationwide lockdown came into force in England on Thursday. 

The city's mayor, Joe Anderson, told Forces News earlier this week: "We value and welcome their [the military's] expertise and their logistic expertise as well, so it's important for us to have that alongside us as we try to tackle this virus."

The personnel are working alongside NHS Test and Trace and commercial partners, as well as Liverpool City Council.

Mr Anderson added: "We’re very much, in a way, reliant on them and their expertise in certain areas, and they’ll be relying on us to take them to the areas where we know this will work."

Liverpool recorded 366.4 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to 29 October and was the first city to enter Tier 3 restrictions prior to the England lockdown on Thursday. 

The pilot aims to identify asymptomatic cases to try to help prevent and reduce transmission in the community.

Testing will be carried out in new and existing sites across Liverpool, including in hospitals, care home settings, schools, universities, workplaces, and using at-home kits.

Cover image: Soldiers and NHS staff prepare for the start of mass testing at Liverpool Tennis Centre (Picture: PA).