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Coronavirus: Armed forces set to run mobile testing centers amid race to hit 100,000 test target

Ministers said "at least" 96 units would go live during May

2 min read

Military personnel have been drafted in to run new mobile coronavirus testing centers as ministers race to hit their 100,000-a-day target by the end of the month.

The Department of Health said the mobile units would travel to areas with "significant demand", including care homes, prisons and fire stations, in an effort to boost testing for key workers and vulnerable people.

Ministers said "at least" 96 mobile centers would be deployed by the start of May, with specially-trained military staff running 94 of them, while contractors would run another four in Northern Ireland.

Swabs from the pop-up units will then be sent to one of three "mega labs" across the country with results expected within 48 hours.

Eight of the new units will begin testing on Sunday, in areas including Salisbury, Southport and Teeside.

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock faces increasing pressure over his pledge to boost testing to 100,000 a day by next Thursday.

Mr Hancock has repeatedly insisted his department would hit the milestone, despite the latest figures from his department showing just 28,760 tests were carried out on Friday.

Announcing the new measures, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, said: "Our armed forces will help deliver testing to where it’s most needed, using a network of up to 96 mobile units that will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

"They will make sure our care sector get the testing required to remain in the front line of the fight against this pandemic."

Professor John Newton, who is coordinating the national testing effort, added: "New mobile testing units will help us achieve our goal of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day, providing tests to vital frontline workers wherever they need them.

"In a matter of weeks, we have worked with Britain’s leading scientists, academics and industry partners to build scores of new testing facilities and Britain’s largest network of diagnostic labs in history."

Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday reports that ministers have placed an order for 50 million new immunity testing kits developed by Oxford scientists working for the Government-backed Rapid Testing Consortium.

It is hoped the "game changing" development could check whether people have developed immunity to the virus, potentially allowing them to leave lockdown to return to work.

The new tests, expected to cost around £10, would use a pinprick of blood and could return results within 20 minutes.

Responding to the announcement, Health minister Lord Bethell, said: "This is a great story of how our manufacturers are stepping up to the challenge of Covid, and I am hopeful that their product will make an impact in our battle against this terrible disease."

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