Published: 15:46, 03 December 2020
| Updated: 16:28, 03 December 2020
Military personnel have started arriving in Medway to help set up mass testing to identify people with coronavirus not showing symptoms.
Cllr Alan Jarrett, leader of Medway Council, today confirmed about 75 members of the military will be stationed in the Towns to help run three testing sites.
The first centre is due to open on Saturday in Chattenden after the deal was agreed with the government yesterday and Cllr Jarrett said soldiers had been at Gun Wharf in Chatham for training today.
Initially, key workers will be able to receive the test as part of efforts to identify people not showing signs of the virus and get them to isolate, which Cllr Jarrett said had been proven to work in Liverpool.
The Conservative councillor said the tests will help play a vital role in reducing the area's infection rate, which is growing faster than anywhere in the country.
About 15% of people receiving tests are currently testing positive but Cllr Jarrett says the aim is for this to fall to 5% through more testing.
It is part of a pilot scheme which could then be rolled out to the wider public.
The testing programme - previously only available for people showing symptoms - will have capacity for 1,500 per day across Medway's three sites - the other two locations are yet to be confirmed.
"We've got military support for three to four weeks. I'm so pleased that we've got them.
"We wouldn't have had the resources ourselves and would've had to bring people in. If you're going to bring people then get the military."
Cllr Jarrett said the hospitals across Kent and the entire health system is working at "not far off capacity" and is under stress.
"All we can do is to work really had to encourage people to observe social distancing and follow the personal hygiene rules," he added.
"We've got to see how the next week goes."
'We wouldn't have had the resources ourselves...'
Asked whether given the rate of the virus spreading in Medway, Tier 3 restrictions were strict enough, Cllr Jarrett said: "It's a very good point. It's a balancing act between public health and the economy.
"Really and truly until we're out of this we should stay with a full lockdown but with Christmas coming nobody wants to see that.
"Nothing is more important than people's lives but we have a balance to strike."
He said the news of the first vaccine getting approval was "a life-saving development" but added he had not been involved in discussions about when the first doses would be arriving in Medway.