Army on standby to help emergency ‘door-to-door’ coronavirus testing

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Army personnel are expected to be deployed in Birmingham to help with door-to door testing services

The Army has been placed on standby to help carry out emergency door-to-door testing in Birmingham amid a surge in infections.

Military personnel are set to take to the streets of Birmingham to help support door to door testing in coronavirus hotspots.

Birmingham City Council and the Ministry of Defence are in talks to finalise the details and an announcement is expected next week.

This comes after Coronavirus cases in the city hit 107.6 per 100,000 people as new restrictions on households mixing were rolled out in a local lockdown.

figures showed a rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the city over the past five days, the council’s deputy leader Brigid Jones said 500 council staff had been redeployed to its “drop-and-collect” testing service.

Army personnel are expected to be deployed in Birmingham to help with door-to-door testing services. The UK military has often been used to support civilian authorities from driving Green Goddesses to filling sandbags for flood defences.

Ms Jones told a meeting of the West Midlands Combined Authority on Friday (September 25) that the initiative involved going door to door in high-risk areas offering testing kits to those with or without symptoms.

Ms Jones told the meeting: “We have been in talks with the military about them giving us some extra capacity for drop-and-collect.

Birmingham City Council and the Ministry of Defence are expected to finalise the deal next week, reports The Birmingham Mail.

Soldiers will be drafted in to help assist the council’s “drop-and-collect” door-to-door testing service.

Council leader Brigid Jones told a meeting of the West Midlands Combined Authority on Friday that the plan will involve going to people’s homes in high risk areas.

Ms Jones said army staff ‘will not‘ be acting in a “military” capacity or carrying out “enforcement”.

The troops will be there as “boots on the ground” bridging any gaps needed in services carried out by civilian staff.

Army personnel and council workers will offer up home tests to people even if they don’t have symptoms in an aggressive bid to control the virus.

She said: “We have been in talks with the military about them giving us some extra capacity for drop-and-collect.

“It’s very much in an extra capacity, feet-on-the-ground sense. It’s literally just to support the civilian effort side of things and we’ll be in a position next week to confirm whether or not they will be providing extra capacity and how that might be working.”

Ms Jones said of the door-to-door scheme: “We are doing it because these are areas where there are very high levels of Covid and we believe there may be asymptomatic people and other people in the community who haven’t accessed tests.

“We are two weeks into intervention in Birmingham, where we have been asking households not to mix in gardens and homes because those are still the areas where we think we are getting the most cases from, followed by workplaces where social distancing isn’t being observed properly.”

Hospital admissions have been “high but stable” in Birmingham – but 6.7 per cent of tests are now coming back as positive.

West Midlands Police are also urging people to report others for breaking coronavirus rules.

Assistant police and crime commissioner Waheed Saleem pledged officers will “move faster” to deal with rule breakers.

He said there have been on average 200 calls a day to the force about breaches since September 20.

Assistant chief constable Claire Bell said: “We are finding there are a small minority that are repeatedly willfully flouting the rules.”

Yesterday, UK coronavirus cases reached their highest ever number for a Saturday with 6,042 infections.

The total number of Covid-19 cases has now risen to 429,277 – with the seven-day rolling average surging by 54 per cent in a week.

Also, the coronavirus R rate has gone up again across the UK – and could be as high as 1.5, experts have warned.

The figures however marks the first drop after five straight days of rises.

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