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Kent County Council say we 'won't have access to army' for mass Covid testing

The military will not be used for the potential rollout of mass Covid-19 testing in the county, it has emerged.

Kent County Council's (KCC) public health director, Andrew Scott-Clark, says the army is "under pressure" and does not have the resources to assist many large councils across the country.

The British Army has been helping with Covid testing in Liverpool. Picture Cpl Danny Houghton
The British Army has been helping with Covid testing in Liverpool. Picture Cpl Danny Houghton

Around 2,000 soldiers were drafted into Liverpool to deliver tests in a city-wide pilot aiming to limit the spread of the virus by testing as many of its near 500,000 residents as possible. They also helped plan the logistics.

Kent, which has around 1.8million citizens, is now seeing some of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the UK.

Swale is one hotspot while Thanet is said to be at a "tipping point" amid more school closures and rising hospital admissions.

Margate county councillor Barry Lewis (Lab) said the lack of military support was "very disappointing" during a virtual KCC health meeting on Friday.

He added: "People generally in Thanet are very worried. We need mass testing coming in urgently rather than waiting for a specific date.

Andrew Scott-Clarke is director of health at Kent County Council
Andrew Scott-Clarke is director of health at Kent County Council

“Sorry to be harsh, but I think the situation in Margate is that desperate and people need to know whether we are coming out of this as soon as possible.”

Ongoing talks continue between the local public health authority, KCC and the Department for Health and Social Care over the rollout of a faster test using a "lateral flow" device. It is expected to give results within 30 minutes and is similar to a pregnancy test.

At the meeting, Mr Scott-Clark said the test will help to learn about asymptompatic residents, who do not show the usual symptoms of the virus, including a cough, high temperature, a loss of taste or a loss of smell.

But he also warned that widespread distribution would be a "huge logistical exercise" and Kent will need the right infrastructure in place for it to work effectively.

He indicated that army support would not be forthcoming, saying: "Colleagues will have seen the military assistance that has gone into Liverpool to test.

There has been a surge in Covid cases in parts of the county
There has been a surge in Covid cases in parts of the county

"We won’t have access to the army, given the army does not have the facilities right across the country to do this sort of work.

“Clearly they are under pressure logistically and therefore we will have to be working through how we do the logistics ourselves."

He added: "Bear with us because this will take some time to get this done properly."

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