Soldiers Given Freedom Of Liverpool After Mass COVID Testing Pilot

Deputy Mayor of Liverpool Wendy Simon said the city owes the soldiers "an incredible debt of gratitude".

British Army regiments that helped set up and run a mass coronavirus testing pilot in Liverpool have been given the Freedom of the City. 

About 2,000 personnel were deployed to the city in early November, helping to conduct 200,000 tests at almost 50 centres.

Brigadier Joe Fossey, Commander of 8 Engineer Brigade, which has led the operation, was presented on Friday with a scroll proposing their inclusion in the Freedom Roll of Associations. 

The soldiers, who stayed in a holiday park in nearby Southport while carrying out the testing, helped bring the city's coronavirus infection rates down from 680 cases per 100,000 people to fewer than 100.

Brig Fossey told Forces News: "It’s a great privilege for a unit of the British Armed Forces to be awarded such recognition and it’s extremely humbling that the city have decided to present us with this freedom.

"It's recognising that the Brigade is made up of a number of different units draw from across principally the British Army.

"It’s a touching, I suppose, sort of end point to our time here in the city. It means a great deal."

About 2,000 personnel were deployed to support the testing pilot in the city.

Deputy Mayor of Liverpool Wendy Simon said the city owes the soldiers "an incredible debt of gratitude".

"We have had so many compliments about their patience, helpfulness and professionalism in supporting people through the process of having a test," she said.

"Let us remember that nothing like this had been tried on this scale before in this country, and in record time, so they should be truly proud of their role in helping Liverpool and the wider city region come out of the lockdown in a lower tier than we entered it."

The scroll that was presented to Brig Fossey reads: "At the height of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in November 2020, The Associated Regiments of the British Army led by 8 Engineer Brigade on behalf of Standing Joint Command (United Kingdom) were assigned to support the City of Liverpool in its fight against the pandemic in co-ordinating and providing mass testing across the city.

"The city acknowledges the fantastic contribution of all personnel in such difficult and unprecedented times and thanks them all for their outstanding leadership."

Testing centres in the city have now been handed over to private contractors to run.

Soldiers have also been teaching civilians in the city how to conduct the testing.

Last month, soldiers from 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment were teaching civilians how to carry out the testing process in the city ahead of handing over the duties.

Private contractors are also providing Systematic Meaningful Asymptomatic Repeated Testing (Smart) community testing, which focuses on encouraging people to get tested before they mix with others.

The Armed Forces are continuing to assist with COVID-19 testing, most recently in Medway, Kent.

About 14,000 personnel are being held at graduated readiness over the coming months as part of the Ministry of Defence's Winter Preparedness Package.

Service personnel are also assisting with the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines, including helping with efforts to construct vaccination centres across the country

Cover image: Lord Mayor of Liverpool and Deputy Mayor of Liverpool present a scroll to Brig Fossey at Liverpool Town Hall (Picture: PA).