Army medics lend a hand with antigen testing

Army medics have been supporting trials of a new COVID-19 antigen test designed to give rapid results.

Last week, some 90 medics supported Public Health England (PHE) trials of the test at secondary schools in Lewisham, Poole and Salisbury. The trial used pupils and staff not displaying symptoms to test the efficiency of mass use of the technology.

One of the medics involved was Sergeant Louise Arthur from Colchester-based 16 Medical Regiment, who was working alongside PHE staff to carry out testing at Sedgehill School in Lewisham.

Sergeant Arthur, a professional Army nurse, said: “We were told on Tuesday lunchtime that we were supporting this work the next day, so we had to quickly get ourselves organised. On Wednesday morning the PHE staff walked and talked us through how to use the equipment and then we’ve just got on with it and been working together to test as many children and staff as we can.”

The test sees a swab taken from the back of throat, which is then smeared on to a chemical test strip that indicates within 20 minutes whether the person tested has Covid-19. It is designed to provide rapid results to be used in public venues such as airports and theatres.

Sergeant Arthur said: “The test a really quick and simple process – after we’ve checked paperwork and done the test, the person is in and out within two minutes – and everyone has been absolutely fine with it. As medics, it’s been interesting for us to be involved in developing a bit of cutting-edge science that, if it passes all the trials, will enable us to live alongside Covid-19 better and help us take a step towards normality.”

The Army’s involvement in this trial is the latest in a long list of task it has carried out in support of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.