Soldiers support local authority testing plan in Greater Manchester

Community testing is getting underway in Greater Manchester with the Army committing almost 1,000 soldiers to assisting its 10 boroughs in breaking the chain of Covid infection.

Each local authority has developed its own community testing plan, while collaborating with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and Public Health England to deliver the scheme.

A total of 47 testing sites will be established over a period of six weeks, with the military training civilians so that testing can continue to be provided.

Colonel Russ Miller, Commander of Army Headquarters North West, said: “What we are delivering will be a blend of what we have seen recently in Liverpool and Lancashire. Each borough has submitted a plan including static Asymptomatic Testing Sites but, increasingly, the boroughs are exploring a more settings-based approach alongside, as per the Lancashire model. Just shy of 1,000 troops are involved, directly supporting the 10 Directors of Public Health and GMCA in general to identify those with the virus and virtually all are prioritising key workers and hard-to-reach elements of the community.”

Proactively testing asymptomatic individuals will help identify the one in three carriers who unknowingly have the virus and enable those who test positive and their contacts to self-isolate. This is crucial to break the chains of transmission of the virus and to support critical industries, key workers and institutions.

As of Monday, 11 January, 420 people per 100,000 were registered as having the virus in Greater Manchester. The region’s preferred approach is to carry out targeted testing at scale which is designed to protect the community by identifying individuals who are asymptomatic and Covid-19 positive and ensuring they isolate, speed up the process of identifying asymptomatic Covid-19 positive individuals in outbreak settings so that those who are not infected can be released from isolation to return to their normal activities and allow close contacts of people who test negative to return to their workplaces and keep critical infrastructure operation. There is also a potential for this testing to allow people to attend cultural and sporting events when restrictions are eased if they test negative.