Coronavirus: NATO Troops Participate In NHS Test And Trace Pilot

NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps is taking part in the scheme as the UK Government continues to look to boost its testing capacity.

About 1,000 NATO troops deployed on a warfighting exercise are taking part in an NHS COVID-19 test and trace pilot.

Ahead of Exercise Loyal Leda in Gloucestershire, personnel from 21 different nations have been taking the lateral flow antigen tests which produce results within 20 minutes to an hour.

During the test, a swab is taken from the nose and throat, added to a liquid and then dropped onto a plastic test strip which gives a rapid result displayed in a similar way to a pregnancy test.

Personnel must take the test before being allowed onto the training area.

The process is currently being used as part of a mass testing pilot in Liverpool, with the assistance of about 2,000 Armed Forces personnel.

Private Matthew Gibson, Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) Support Battalion, told Forces News: "It is a relatively simple, relatively easy process.

"The most unpleasant bit of it is doing the swabbing. We are doing self-swabbing here, so each individual person will swab themselves.

"We're not having them swabbed by a member of the medic team which then... reduces on contact potential risk for cross-contamination, and also makes it easier for the person as they know what their comfort level is." 

As of Monday, only two soldiers taking part in the NATO exercise have tested positive for coronavirus.

The troops are being tested once every three days. 

Personnel must conduct a lateral flow antigen test before joining Exercise Loyal Leda.
Personnel must conduct a lateral flow antigen test before joining Exercise Loyal Leda.

Colonel Craig Hodgson, Medical Director HQ, ARRC, said: "Our second one [case] was actually one of those people who were self-isolating as a result of the first one.

"It just really goes to prove the fact that this test works on the basis that we identified them, we isolated them immediately and the subsequent test has shown they were positive too."

Col Hodgson added: "We are working with the public health teams and we work with the health protection team locally.

"Back in Imjin Barracks, where we’re based, we’ve been engaging with the public health team from the military in order to capture all this data, break down as to which people are being affected, how many tests we are doing and understand the consequences of each of those test results [coming] through."

Formed in the early 1900s and based in Gloucestershire for the last decade, the ARRC has seen a range of deployments – from the Middle East to the Balkans.