Tobias Ellwood MP is putting forward the idea that the British military could prevent school closures in the coming months by supporting COVID testing.
It is understood that some schools will have to stagger their reopening to pupils after the Christmas break, but fears remain over further closures in the New Year if the coronavirus spread worsens.
The Chair of the Defence Select Committee believes the Armed Forces could potentially be used to help schools stay open in 2021, as they have with other aspects of the community in 2020.
He told LBC:
“We know that schools have had problems with one individual, let’s say, getting COVID and then that bubble having to close down.
“We want to avoid that and I’m simply asking the questions at the moment, as to whether the Armed Forces could continue to do more in supporting the 30,000-odd schools that we have in England.”
Mr Ellwood said the impact of the pandemic on education has been “absolutely colossal” and “hugely disruptive”.
Many children attending school are unlikely to receive vaccinations before many vulnerable groups, he explained, adding that “testing is the way forward”.
To ease the pressure on the NHS, large-scale testing could seek assistance from defence, said Mr Ellwood – unwilling to speculate on what form a military presence in schools could take.
“I’m simply stating that you have the capability there, medics as well, that could be utilised,” he said.
The MP added that the role of the military in testing lorry drivers stranded in Kent in recent days demonstrated its ability to potentially carry out school testing.
Around 1,100 personnel have been supporting testing on the M20, after the French government demanded those crossing the English Channel into France must have received a negative coronavirus test taken less than 72 hours before their journey.
Cover image: Tobias Ellwood speaking at Veterans' Mental Health Conference at King's College in London in 2019 (Picture: PA).