At a ceremony at the Town Hall on 11 December 2020, Brigadier Joe Fossey OBE, Commander of the 8th Engineer Brigade, was presented with a special scroll announcing their inclusion in the Freedom Roll of Associations - granting the unit 'Freedom of the City'. 8th Engineer Brigade led the whole-town testing operation in Liverpool.
Around 2,000 troops have facilitated 200,000 tests at almost 50 testing centres over the last month, with around a third of the population getting tested. The Coronavirus infection rate in the city has reduced from 680 per 100,000 people to under 100 in the space of around six weeks. This enabled Liverpool and the wider city region to become the first area in the country to move down from Tier 3 to Tier 2 when lockdown ended, with many businesses able to reopen for the first time in two months.
Freedom of the City is the highest civic honour the city can bestow and is in recognition of a significant contribution to the communities of Liverpool.
The Freedom citation reads: “At the height of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in November 2020, The Associated Regiments of the British Army led by 8 Engineer Brigade on behalf of Standing Joint Command (United Kingdom) were assigned to support the City of Liverpool in its fight against the pandemic in co-ordinating and providing mass testing across the city. The city acknowledges the fantastic contribution of all personnel in such difficult and unprecedented times and thanks them all for their outstanding leadership.”
The city has also commissioned the minting of special commemorative coins, which will be issued to each of the troops involved in the operation, as a civic gift from the city, at a later date.
The remaining testing centres in Liverpool have now been handed over to civilians to run, concentrating on what is known as SMART community testing (Systematic Meaningful Asymptomatic Repeated Testing) focused on enabling people to go about their everyday lives safely, opening up the economy and getting life going again in Liverpool.