Military work on the National Testing Programme will be handed over to civilian contractors over the coming weeks as the Department for Health and Social Care establishes a long-term plan to deliver coronavirus tests.

Since April, the UK Armed Forces have deployed thousands of personnel at short notice to support coronavirus testing. They have worked alongside NHS staff and civilians at Regional Sites around the country and in Mobile Testing Units, helping to deliver more than 6 million tests.

The Mobile Testing Units are playing a vital role in helping essential workers, who are most vulnerable to the virus, access tests. The units were designed by military engineers in just 7 days, with the first unit on the road and performing tests just hours after it was assembled.

Since the programme began, more than 2,500 service personnel have run 218 mobile testing units, conducting 600,000 tests around the country. Now the Armed Forces will train civilian contractors to continue this essential role.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“Thousands of our Armed Forces personnel – regular, reservists plus supporting civilians – stepped up to serve on the front line in the fight against coronavirus.

The four month mission of those on the national testing programme helped to carry out more than six million tests, with 218 military Mobile Testing Teams deploying around the country as needed. This is an extraordinary effort.

As those teams now train civilian contactors to continue the work I want to say a huge thank you to our Armed Forces for doing what they do best and supporting the nation’s resilience in a time of crisis.”

Maj Gen David Eastman MBE, Commander Standing Joint Command (UK) said:

“I am incredibly proud of our servicemen and women who designed and deployed with the Mobile Testing Units across the United Kingdom and provided the British public with professional and efficient testing facilities. We are delighted to be able to support and complement the testing centres established by the NHS and will continue to deliver on any request for assistance in the fight against the coronavirus.”

In Northern Ireland, mobile testing units have been civilian operated from the outset. The handover process has now begun in England, Scotland and Wales.

• Overall the National Testing Programme has conducted 6,011,596 tests at both Regional Testing Sites and Mobile Testing Units (as at 13 July).

• Military Mobile Testing Units have deployed 7,202 times, working 86,424 days or 864,240 man hours, conducting 648,439 tests.

• 2,784 service personnel delivered 218 Mobile Testing Units with a daily testing capacity of 87,200 (as at 13 July).

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