Coronavirus UK: Army prepares to deploy thousands of troops as part of ‘winter defence force’


Army prepares to deploy thousands of troops as part of ‘winter defence force’ to help hand out coronavirus tests to combat spread of Covid during new lockdown

  • Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today told MPs that 7,500 troops are on standby 
  • Troops will ‘support most of Government’ in tackling the virus during lockdown
  • Stressed that this was fewer than the 10,500 troops committed in the first wave
  • Meanwhile, Downing Street said army could be involved in distributing tests

The Army is preparing a ‘winter defence force’ to help the Government deal with the month-long second lockdown – as the Government confirms the military will help hand out rapid Covid tests.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today told MPs that 7,500 troops are on standby to ‘support most of Government’ in tackling the virus as the new rules come into effect on Thursday.

He stressed that this was fewer than the 10,500 troops committed in the first wave – but said only 4-5,000 were deployed at any one time in this period.

Mr Wallace said: ‘What we should make sure we do is always bring to bear the best of our armed forces to help wherever we can right across the board.

‘Resilience is defence’s middle name and it is that key part of our skill that we are bringing to support most of Government across the country.’

He added: ‘In the previous lockdown we committed over 10,500 troops – it is 7,500 at the moment, but we always keep that number under review.

‘During the last lockdown we only actually used at most about 4-5,000 at any one time, but of course we stand by to help.’

The Army is preparing a ‘winter defence force’ to help the Government deal with the month-long second lockdown – as the Government confirms the military will help hand out rapid Covid tests (file image) 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) today told MPs that 7,500 troops are on standby to 'support most of Government' in tackling the virus as the new rules come into effect on Thursday

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) today told MPs that 7,500 troops are on standby to ‘support most of Government’ in tackling the virus as the new rules come into effect on Thursday

Boris Johnson brings in the Army to help roll out ‘rapid turnaround’ tests for Covid for ‘whole cities’ within days 

Boris Johnson will bring in the Army to help roll out ‘rapid turnaround tests’ which will see ‘whole cities’ able to tested for Covid within days.

The Prime Minister made the announcement at a Downing Street press conference on Saturday, as he plunged the nation back into a full lockdown until December 2.

Government scientific advisers have endorsed Mr Johnson’s £100billion Operation Moonshot, which would see 10 million people tested a day regardless of whether they have symptoms, in a paper submitted to Downing St last month. 

Population-wide testing has the ability to slash Covid-19’s reproduction rate in half, the experts said. 

 

Meanwhile, Downing  Street indicated that further announcements on the delivery of rapid coronavirus tests would be announced soon, with the Army involved in distributing them.

In his shock lockdown announcement on Saturday, Boris Johnson highlighted the ‘immediate prospect’ of ‘many millions’ of tests which could deliver a result in ten to 15 minutes.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters today: ‘What we know from trialling them in schools as well as in hospitals is that we can use the tests not just to locate infected people but to drive down the disease.

‘What you will be seeing in the coming days and weeks is an expansion in the deployment of the quick-turnaround tests.’

He added: ‘We have brought the Army in to work on the logistics of distributing the tests and I would expect that programme to begin work this week.’

At the moment there are two types of test available: a nose and throat swab which can detect if you are currently infected, and a blood test which can reveal past infection. 

Mr Johnson’s £100 billion Operation Moonshot has set a target of 10 million people tested per day by early next year. The speed of these tests, their ease of use and their price is now the major focus of the Government to get Britain back on its feet. 

Among the tests being rolled out are ‘lamp’ tests, short for loop-mediated isothermal amplification, a swab and saliva method which delivers results in 60 to 90 minutes.

Boris Johnson today begged Tories to keep faith in his coronavirus strategy as he defended his plan to plunge England into a fresh national lockdown

Mr Johnson’s (pictured today) £100 billion Operation Moonshot has set a target of 10 million people tested per day by early next year

Unlike the ‘gold-standard’ PCR testing system, lamp tests do not need to be processed in a lab.

Separately, lateral flow tests, which use the same technology commonly used for pregnancy tests, can detect antibodies in a patient’s blood indicating that they have Covid-19 or have had the disease and recovered.

They require a drop of blood from a finger prick and can provide results in 15 minutes. Like lamp tests, they do not need to be sent off to a lab for analysis. 

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