Coronavirus

COVID: Military Part Of 'Major Community Testing Programme'

Military personnel will be part of the roll out which will offer tier-three regions "a six-week surge" of COVID-19 testing.

The Armed Forces will help launch a major community testing programme for coronavirus in England, the Prime Minister has announced.

Boris Johnson confirmed that the worst affected areas will be able to call on military assistance to roll out mass testing.

He told MPs it will help ease restrictions in the worst hit areas, and save some people from having to self-isolate.

Along with the NHS, military personnel will help launch the community testing, which will offer tier-three regions "a six-week surge" of COVID-19 tests.

"Together with NHS test and trace and our fantastic Armed Forces, we will now launch a major community testing programme," Boris Johnson said.

"Offering all local authorities in tier three areas in England a six-week surge of testing.

"The system is untried and there are, of course, many unknowns, but if it works, we should be able to offer those who test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions, for example, meeting up in certain places with others who have also tested negative.

"Those towns and regions which engage in community testing will have a much greater chance of easing the rules [and] the tiering they currently endure."

It follows the success of testing in Liverpool, which has included rapid lateral flow tests and quick turnaround results within an hour.

Mr Johnson said the scheme, which thousands of military personnel helped set up, had tested more than 200,000 people and led to "a very substantial fall in infections".

Personnel in Liverpool were asked to extend their stay in the city, as part of the roll out of rapid turnaround tests (Picture MOD).

Mr Johnson added that daily testing will also be used as part of attempts to "end automatic isolation" for close contacts of those who test positive for COVID-19.

"Beginning in Liverpool later this week, contacts who are tested every day for a week will only need to isolate if they, themselves, test positive," the Prime Minister said.

"If successful, this approach will be extended across the health system next month and to the whole of England from January."

Mr Johnson also said there will be a return to "tougher" regional tiers.

The Prime Minister also added that the UK has "more than enough" COVID vaccines for "everyone in the UK, the crown dependencies and the overseas territories", which the Armed Forces and NHS are on standby to roll out.

"We don’t yet know when any will be ready and licensed but we have ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine and over 350 million in total," Mr Johnson told the House of Commons.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, British military personnel have played a key role in the country's response.

A "Winter Support Force" has been created, responsible for helping authorities deal with coronavirus in the coming months.

The number of military personnel on standby has been increased from 7,500 to 12,500, as their role is set to expand further.

Cover image: MOD.