Army cannot be drafted in for Covid testing across country, warns General

Samuel Osborne
·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The army cannot be drafted in to Covid-19 testing across the country, a General has warned.

General Sir Gordon Messenger, head of operations for the government’s community testing programme, told a Downing Street press conference on Monday that the way the military helped with testing in Liverpool could not be replicated.

“Liverpool was delivered primary by a military workforce,” he said. "I can say with confidence that cannot be replicated around the country.

“Therefore the military support, along with all other central support has to be targeted where it’s needed most and where it can have the greatest effect.”

"I have absolutely no doubt that the military will continue to play a really important part in the community testing programme but the baseline assumption in terms of workforce generation is that that will be delivered locally with considerable support from the centre.

Watch: All you need to know from the Government's coronavirus briefing

"And from what I've seen, of a number of local communities, there's great ingenuity already underway in delivering that workforce. They're accessing the volunteer force, they're working very innovatively with the private sector, and yes, of course, they've got good liaison with local leadership in the military.

"So that is our starting assumption, as I say, I've no doubt that the military will play a prominent role, but the idea that it can be a wholesale offer to all local authorities is simply undeliverable given what the military are doing already."

General Messenger also said the community testing programme is trying to move away from the term “mass testing”.

He said: "I think this is about community testing. It's about tailoring to the needs, as I said, of the local area, and that might be geographically specific, or it might be ethnic community specific."

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said Liverpool would go into tier two rather than tier three restrictions when England’s national lockdown is lifted on Wednesday.

Mr Hancock said there would be extra funding for local authorities to do testing "up to a figure of £14 per test done".

"That's quite significant extra funding that's available across the UK for the councils that want to make this work on the model of Liverpool," he said.

Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work

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