One hundred and seventy-five Armed Forces personnel have been deployed to the Kent Medway Towns as part of the Medway Resilience Unit (MRU), the joint Military Command (South East) has said.
The MRU aims to help reduce the infection rate in the Medway towns, which are in Tier 3, the toughest level of coronavirus restrictions.
Military personnel from 35 Engineer Regiment – who are leading the MRU unit – are finalising their training and will soon be operating three COVID lateral flow test centres across the area.
The lateral flow tests were recently administered by personnel in Liverpool during a mass testing pilot there.
Results from the rapid turnaround tests only take up to an hour.
This first phase of testing is for critical workers who live or work in Medway and residents in the areas which have the highest incidence of COVID-19 cases.
All those eligible for a test at this stage have been contacted directly.
The Commander of Joint Military Command (South East) said: "We [JME South East] are pleased to announce that the Armed Forces, as part of our contribution to the UK’s fight against COVID-19, will be supporting Medway Council’s lead in the delivery of community-targeted testing at several sites across the Medway Towns.
“Our planning team from across the Armed Forces have been engaged with the initial set-up of the Medway community targeted testing programme over the past few days."
The personnel have been deployed to the area at the request of the local authorities.
Lieutenant Colonel James Cackett, the Commanding Officer of 35 Engineer Regiment, said: "My team and I are here to support Medway Council whilst assisting the Department of Health and Social Care in combating the infection rate within the Medway Towns.
“I and the rest of the Medway Resilience Unit are eagerly preparing to commence this testing programme so that we can help make an impact on the virus affecting the communities in Medway as soon as possible."
The MRU will also incorporate elements of 29 Group Support Unit, 28 Engineer Regiment and 33 Engineer Regiment.
Specialists from the British Army, Royal Navy, and the Royal Air Force have been involved in the planning process for the Medway testing sites, in partnership with Medway Council.
There are now about 14,000 personnel held at graduated readiness as part of the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) Winter Preparedness Package – on standby to assist local authorities with coronavirus over the winter period.
It comes after the news that thousands of military personnel will be "on call" over the Christmas period to help with COVID-19 and other potential scenarios, although it is understood the majority of servicemen and women will be able to leave their base or place of work.
Cover image: MOD