Coronavirus: Tests To Be Extended To Defence Staff

Tests for coronavirus are to be extended to defence staff.

The move by Downing Street comes after the decision last week to widen the eligibility for COVID-19 testing to social care staff last week.

This has again been extended to now include police and fire services, local authority staff, people who work with homeless people, prison and judiciary staff, frontline benefits workers, as well as defence staff.

"There hasn’t been as much demand from NHS staff as had been anticipated for those tests," a Number 10 spokesperson said.

"Obviously we do have spare capacity and we want that capacity to be used so therefore we will broaden who those tests are available to."

In the 24 hours up to 9am yesterday (Thursday) a total of 18,665 tests were carried out for coronavirus.

Of these, 16,466 were by NHS, Public Health England (PHE) and devolved administrations laboratories, 2,323 tests by commerical partners and 176 tests through an ongoing small scale surveillance testing programme.

Altogether, there is a total testing capacity of more than 38,000, with 23,866 through NHS, PHE and devolved administration labs and 14,300 through commercial testing.

There does remain, however a significant gap between tests conducted and the actual capacity available.

Across NHS England on Thursday, 4.9% of doctors and 8.4% of nurses were absent from work, relating to coronavirus, compared to 5.9% of doctors and 9.4% of nurses a week ago.

Number 10 says it is a sign "staff absence due to coronavirus is falling".

A total of 9.1% of the defence workforce were reported as being absent from their usual place of work yesterday due to reasons related to COVID-19.

The figure, which equates to around 13,000 staff, includes personnel from both the regular and reserve force.

Shadow Defence Secretary, John Healey, said that this was a "stark reminder" that we must be doing all we can to keep the military safe:

"The armed forces are not immune from the pressure that all of our other services are facing. 

"We should be doing all we can to protect our personnel from becoming ill, from being absent from the front-line at this time and in part that requires a much better testing system and better reporting system".

Fewer than 100 service personnel have tested positive for coronavirus.

Related topics

Join Our Newsletter


Decorated bomb disposal veteran said Iraq War was 'baptism of fire'

Household Cavalry parade around Hyde Park in annual inspection

Iraq War 20 years on - the legacy of Op Telic | Sitrep podcast