RAF personnel are helping to distribute coronavirus testing kits in Birmingham, as part of the city’s fightback against the second wave of COVID-19.
The Drop and Collect testing programme is one of only two in the country and began at the end of last month after a surge of infections.
Birmingham City Council was quick to ask for military assistance to boost testing resources, and now more than 100 members of the Royal Air Force are involved.
On city streets, council workers and members of the RAF have been going door-to-door to offer test kits - returning half-an-hour later to collect the completed tests.
Sergeant Jonathan Hill, RAF Central Band, told Forces News: "It’s really good. It feels like sort of giving back to the community, helping people out who can’t get to test centres, specifically old people who might not have a car, that kind of thing, some people who don’t know about the coronavirus and specifically how it works with being asymptomatic, all those kinds of things."
The tests are completely voluntary, but the hope is that by offering them, new hotspots can be detected and treated sooner than they might otherwise have been.
Leicester is the only other part of England to have run the same type of testing service.
Corporal Rachel Carpenter, RAF Central Band, told Forces News: "Today’s been really good, we’ve been in a student area, so the uptake has been really high, they’re all really keen.
"This morning, we had quite a lot of elderly people, so it was really helpful for them because they’re unable to get to mobile testing units, so the door-to-door service that we’re providing and able to register the tests has been really helpful and really appreciated."
Birmingham City Council’s Sophie Murray said: "If people have been listening to the news, a lot of people are saying they can’t get the chance to get into these test places, some people say they can’t get out, so at least we’re coming out to them and giving them the opportunity to have a go and taking the test if they want to, rather than people saying ‘well nobody’s come to us, no one’s given us the opportunity', so I like to think we’re helping people."
With almost a third of the country’s population deemed at high, or very high, risk from the virus, and with the Prime Minister offering further military support to those areas, lessons from Birmingham could soon be used elsewhere.
Major Samantha Brettell, Joint Military Command, West Midlands, said: "Who knows if another MACA [Military Aid to Civil Authorities] will come in for other areas because obviously the rate is going up... and the latest government guidelines, so we may well get other MACAs in other parts of the country and we’ll just wait and once they come in we will sort out and support whoever needs that support."