Army bosses draw up plans for soldiers in more areas set for mass coronavirus testing

Military planners were this morning preparing to send Army personnel to more areas around the country, according to multiple sources.

By Rebecca Beardmore
Thursday, 12th November 2020, 1:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th November 2020, 1:22 pm

One soldier confirmed his regiment has been briefed on a possible deployment to Manchester city centre, with confirmation pencilled in for Monday, while Birmingham was also touted as an imminent destination.

A number of brigades were said to be on standby to be sent across the nation to carry out mass testing, which is already in operation in Liverpool.

And, despite a recent fall in infection rates, Lancashire could follow suit, with top brass studying the areas in need of extra support, though plans were yet to be set in stone.

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Soldiers are on standby for deployment to other areas of England, after Liverpool became the first city to pilot the mass coronavirus testing procedure.

Squaddies were also expected to be sent to help with "smaller self-testing areas", including some in the north west.

It comes as the rapid coronavirus tests, which are being to test the majority of those in Liverpool, were branded accurate and sensitive enough to play a "major role" in the battle against the disease.

The lateral flow tests, which can produce results in under half an hour without the need for laboratory equipment, have been shown to have over 99.6 per cent specificity, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

An evaluation process concluded they are suitable to be used in the community, including for testing asymptomatic people who are not showing signs of coronavirus infection.

The assessment of the tests was carried out by Public Health England’s (PHE) Porton Down lab and Oxford University.

Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, said: “The data in this validation report demonstrates that these inexpensive, easy to use tests can play a major role in our fight against Covid-19.

“They identify those who are likely to spread the disease and when used systematically in mass testing could reduce transmissions by 90%.

“They will be detecting disease in large numbers of people who have never previously even received a test.”

An initial 600,000 tests will also be sent to more than 60 cities and towns, including 10,000 to Blackpool, where they will be distributed to schools and workplaces.

The resort's director of public health, Dr Arif Rajpura, said: "The availability of rapid-turnaround lateral flow tests provides the opportunity for us to expand access to testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic residents, which will in turn help us to slow the spread of Covid-19. 

"We know that there are many people in our community that have mild or no classic symptoms of coronavirus and so are unaware that they may be putting others at risk of infection.

 "We are in the process of planning how to best implement the testing regime and are looking to learn from other pilot areas, such as Liverpool. We hope to start piloting the system within the next couple of weeks.

"We have agreed to work in partnership with Fylde Coast Medical Services, which will employ a team of staff offering outreach testing for vulnerable individuals, such as the homeless.

"The team will also visit settings such as workplaces and educational environments to offer testing."