The number of Covid-19 mobile test units in the UK will more than double in the coming weeks, with the military destined to provide many facilities.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said 1,763 officials will support the 236 units. There were 96 units in April.
“The tests are at the heart of the strategy to fight the coronavirus,” said Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
The government was challenged by its testing capacity and the data provided during the pandemic.
Mobile units, which can be set up in less than 20 minutes, provide access to tests, usually in more remote areas.
The swabs are collected by military personnel on the spot and taken to one of three “mega labs” to be processed, with results expected within 48 hours.
Another 140 vehicles from the Department of Health and Social Assistance (DHSC) will be made available across the UK.
After a successful pilot in late April, the government previously suggested that 80 mobile units would be up and running in early May.
The Defense Ministry said it was the largest deployment of military personnel to support the government’s response to the coronavirus.
“The United Kingdom’s armed forces have played a vital role in ensuring that key workers and the most vulnerable can access these tests where and when they need them most,” said the defense secretary.
“Our armed forces will continue to support in whatever way possible and for as long as necessary, in order to keep the British people safe as long as the blockade measures are adjusted.”
The increase in support will be implemented in several weeks, said the Ministry of Defense.
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The move follows challenges for the government in terms of testing and statistical capacity.
On June 7, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK had exceeded its goal of increasing capacity to 200,000 a day by the end of May – but only about 115,000 tests were actually carried out in the 24 hours at 9 am That day’s BST.
The chairman of the UK Statistical Authority said the presentation of the daily figures appears to aim to show “as many tests as possible, even at the expense of understanding”.
A government spokesman said he was working with statisticians and that the approach was “to increase transparency”.
Early in the pandemic, military personnel helped deliver home test kits to the most vulnerable regional test sites and staffed before being delivered to commercial operators.
Pop-up units were initially brought in in April to provide testing to frontline workers.
Tests are now available for all adults and most children in the UK with a fever, new cough or loss of smell or taste. They can be performed at drive-through test sites, mobile test units or using test kits at home.