The military have been thanked for their efforts in rolling out the Covid-19 rapid testing programme for 194 local businesses and organisations in Lancashire.
In December, the specially set up ‘UK Resilience Unit’, made up of 325 army service personnel from regiments across the country, began providing testing kits and training for both large organisations and smaller local businesses.
While this testing will still continue, the unit’s involvement in Lancashire finished last week.
The unit has been using Lateral Flow Tests with businesses and organisations in the county to identify people who may have Covid-19 but are showing no symptoms.
Alongside the testing itself, army service personnel have been providing businesses with the training they need to continue testing their employees in the future. In total, the unit carried out 33,232 tests with 455 positive results.
Rapid testing is part of the Covid response in the county, which is co-ordinated by the Lancashire Resilience Forum and brings together public bodies including councils, police, fire, and health.
Neil Jack, chair of the regional co-ordination group on the LRF, said:
“We are very grateful for the UK Resilience Unit’s commitment to testing and training both small and large employers in the county, and we will continue to follow this successful model to keep the people of Lancashire safe.
“Thank you to the armed forces for their work in Lancashire, which helped to organise and implement the testing, and put us into a position where we can take it on ourselves and continue it.
“I would urge any business who hasn’t already taken up this programme and help us to prevent the spread of the virus.
“While the official guidance is to work from home if we can, this simply isn’t an option for many people. Around 1 in 3 people who test positive for Covid have no symptoms at all and can spread it unknowingly, which is why rapid testing is vital if we are to keep people safe at work and save lives.”
Some service personnel who deployed to support the Lancashire community testing had prior Covid testing experience, supporting Mobile Testing Units across Scotland in summer of last year.
This prior experience and knowledge, combined with online training courses, internal assurances and assessments ensured the teams deployed were competent and confident in supporting community testing across Lancashire.
Colonel Russ Miller OBE, Commander Army Headquarters North West, said:
“For us in the Army HQ (North West) in Preston it has been hugely rewarding to support Lancashire’s SMART testing programme, which has developed into a genuinely ‘best practice’ exemplar. The soldiers deployed from across the UK have been busy, but employed doing important work helping protect our local communities, and I know they have welcomed the opportunity to help and enjoyed being on the task. Additional military support continues across the North West, including supporting the vaccination roll-out, but I must commend our NHS colleagues who really are on the front line in this battle. We stand by to support where we can in the future.”
Retailer boohoo, who have an operations centre in Burnley, were one of the county’s largest employers to receive the testing training.
David James, Supply Chain Director at boohoo, said:
“Everybody has a role to play in limiting the spread of this virus and we want to play our part in helping to keep people safe. We are very grateful to the British Army and our local authority for their support in getting our testing programme started, administering the tests during our busy Christmas period and then training our people so we could carry on testing into the future.
“Lateral flow testing helps to identify people who are carrying the virus without any symptoms and, when combined with other safety measures, such as facemasks, one way systems and temperature checks, is ideal for big employers like ourselves to help protect our colleagues, their families and the wider community.”
SMART testing (Sustained, Meaningful, Asymptomatic, Repeated Testing) uses rapid tests which provide results within 30 minutes and help to identify people who are infectious but are not showing symptoms.
Lancashire has been given government funding to expand asymptomatic testing for Covid, and Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackpool Council are asking local businesses who cannot work from home to take part in the testing to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their workforces now and in the future.
Staff will be given a Lateral Flow Test, which involves the person taking a swab of their throat and nose. This is then analysed and the result is sent to them automatically via text or email within around 30 minutes of the test.
To find out more about how you can get involved, go to: www.lancashire.gov.uk/coronavirus-updates/smart-mass-testing-for-workplaces