A member of the RAF provides assistance to the public as part of the first mass COVID testing scheme in Wales (Picture: MOD).
Coronavirus

COVID: Military Launches Wales' First Mass Testing Scheme

Hundreds of people have been tested in Merthyr Tydfil borough, where members of the Armed Forces have been running centres.

A member of the RAF provides assistance to the public as part of the first mass COVID testing scheme in Wales (Picture: MOD).

Military personnel are helping to operate testing sites in Wales, as part of the UK's coronavirus mass testing scheme.

Hundreds of people have been tested in Merthyr Tydfil borough, where members of the Royal Air Force have been running centres.

The area is Wales' first region to join the programme, with more than 170 personnel involved in the scheme.

It will see the use of 'lateral flow' devices, which can turn around results in under an hour.

Rapid coronavirus tests are being offered to local residents and workers, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms after Merthyr Tydfil town registered the UK’s highest rate of new cases.

Personnel are being trained how to use personal protective equipment and administer coronavirus tests, before being deployed to different locations within the region.

The testing scheme was launched on Saturday morning at Rhydycar Leisure Centre, ahead of more sites opening in the borough.

Merthyr Tydfil has since seen the biggest drop in cases in Wales from around 770 cases per 100,000 to now below 260 as the effect of the country’s 17-day firebreak begins to work.

Watch: The Army's commander of mass testing in Liverpool talks through what lateral flow testing is, earlier this month.

On Saturday evening, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council said 560 people had attended the testing centre on the first day of the testing programme.

Liverpool has recently rolled out the pilot for the mass testing programme and has requested personnel extend their tasking in Merseyside until 4 December.

The Prime Minister confirmed on Monday that the Armed Forces will help to launch a major community testing programme in England, as part of the Government's winter plan to tackle coronavirus.

Boris Johnson confirmed that the worst affected areas will be able to call on military assistance to roll out mass testing, with personnel helping with the launch, which will offer tier-three regions "a six-week surge" of COVID-19 tests.

"Winter Support Force", responsible for helping authorities deal with COVID-19 in the coming months, has been increased from 7,500 to 12,500 personnel.

During the peak of the military's response earlier this year, 20,000 troops were at readiness as part of the COVID Support Force, with more than 4,000 of them deployed at any one time.

The Armed Forces and NHS are on standby to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine from the start of December.

Cover image: A member of the RAF provides assistance to the public in Merthyr Tydfil, the first region in Wales to participate in the UK's mass COVID testing scheme (Picture: MOD).