British armed forces to support Covid-19 testing in schools

The British armed forces will remotely support mass Covid-19 testing of secondary school students in England and be on standby to provide in-person support at short notice if needed, the Ministry of Defence said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Ministry said 1,500 military personnel will hold webinars and give phone support to school staff in setting up mass Covid-19 testing when the new school term begins next week, reports Xinhua news agency.

The military has previously helped organise mass testing in Liverpool, and more recently in Kent to clear the backlog of lorries after France closed its border with Britain amid fears of the spread of the new coronavirus strain, discovered in the UK earlier this month.

But teaching unions said schools have not been given enough time to make plans, and some head-teachers said the UK government should delay the start of the new school term.

British scientists are urgently investigating hints the new variant of coronavirus spreads more easily in children.

Preliminary research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested that schools and universities might need to close on top of existing Tier Four restrictions to bring the new variant under control.

The students are due back to schools next week starting from January 4, 2021, but the majority of secondary school pupils in England will begin the school term by studying remotely, to give teachers time to implement the coronavirus testing program for students and staff.

Wales and Scotland have delayed or revised the start of the new term.

Northern Ireland schools are due back next week, according to the BBC.

Another 53,135 people in the UK have tested positive for Covid-19, marking a new record daily spike, according to the official figures released on Tuesday.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the country now stands at 2,389,963.

Another 414 have died within 28 days of a positive test, bringing the total number of fatalities to 71,675, the data showed.