Army's 'Desert Rats' march into Northamptonshire to boost Covid-19 testing for key workers

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Soldiers help 4,000 essential staff get swabbed in battle to beat coronavirus

Soldiers from the British Army's famous Desert Rats are helping leading the fight against Covid-19 in Northamptonshire.

The 7th Infantry Brigade is manning mobile testing stations set up to swab the county's essential workers and clear them to return to work.

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Military-led units were in operation in Northampton and Corby helping testing key workers to date, including NHS and care home staff, eligible council employees and emergency services personnel as part of a fleet of mobile testing units travelling the country.

Desert Rats soldiers man one of Northamptonshire's Covid-19 testing stationsDesert Rats soldiers man one of Northamptonshire's Covid-19 testing stations
Desert Rats soldiers man one of Northamptonshire's Covid-19 testing stations | other

The temporary facilities arrived in the county to support the work of Northamptonshire’s established Covid-19 testing centres at hospitals in Northampton and Kettering. Between them the facilities have tested more than 4,000 local key workers to date.

Northamptonshire’s COVID-19 testing lead Chris Pallot, who is also Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Northampton General Hospital, said: “Although providing access to coronavirus testing for key workers who need it has been a significant challenge, it’s testament to the tremendous collaborative efforts of everyone involved in establishing our county’s testing hubs that we have good capacity in place.

“Across the two sites at NGH and KGH we have capacity to test hundreds of health, care and public sector key workers with Covid-19 symptoms who are referred by their employers each day – and the vast majority of results are delivered back within 48 hours.

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“Although our local testing capacity is good we were pleased to welcome the mobile units to Northampton and Corby, opening up further opportunities for essential workers to get tested locally.”

County Covid-19 testing stations have now processed 4,000 key workersCounty Covid-19 testing stations have now processed 4,000 key workers
County Covid-19 testing stations have now processed 4,000 key workers | other

The Corby centre got off to a sticky start when the Government sent those due to be tested to the wrong part of town.

Desert Rats commander, Brigadier Tom Bewick, is co-ordinating military support to the county’s civilian agencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Speaking to the soldiers I know how proud they are to be working to help keep members of the NHS and other key workers safe across Northamptonshire.

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“The flexibility of the soldiers and their familiarity with high-pressure taskings has meant they are ideally suited for this support role. We will continue to support the NHS and other government departments as long as we are needed.”

NHS, care sector, local authority and emergency services staff in Northamptonshire who have Covid-19 symptoms, or symptomatic members of their household, can access testing in the county through their employer.

Other eligible groups – including symptomatic over-65s and those whose work cannot be done from home – can register online for testing at one of the Government’s regional testing sites. Click HERE for further information.

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