The military is to man mobile coronavirus units to test for coronavirus in places with the ‘highest demand’ such as care homes, the Department of Health and Social care announced on Sunday.
The news comes as 159 care providers in England, out of 210 spoken to by the BBC, reported on Sunday that none of their care workers had had a test, with staff citing long journeys to test centres as a barrier.
At least 96 mobile testing units are ready to be deployed by May to test frontline workers and the most vulnerable at high-demand sites. These sites include care homes, police stations, prisons, benefits centres and fire and rescue services.
Testing minister Lord Bethell said: ‘Everyone who needs a coronavirus test should be able to have access to one.
‘New mobile testing units will travel the country to provide vital frontline workers with tests so those testing negative to safely return to work.’
Currently, there are eight military mobile units carrying out the test for coronavirus across the country including in Salisbury, Southport and Teesside – but this is set to be significantly scaled up by May.
The armed forces will collect swabs at the mobile sites, which will be sent to labs for processing. Those tested will receive results with 48 hours, according to the DHSC.
In a statement, the DHSC said: ‘Mobile facilities can be set up in under 20 minutes, allowing the testing of hundreds of people each day and are now travelling to those most in need and hard to reach.’
The Government has previously committed to ensuring patients and NHS staff are tested for the virus, including all symptomatic residents and care staff ‘who need a test’.
It also aims to reach 100,000 tests a day by Thursday. Latest figures show that 29,058 tests were carried out on Saturday.
National testing coordinator John Newton said: ‘New mobile testing units will help us achieve our goal of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day, providing tests to vital frontline workers wherever they need them.’
Last week, the Government launched a plan to stop coronavirus spreading in care homes by boosting access to personal protective equipment, ramping up testing and recruiting more staff.
Earlier this month, the Royal College of Nursing warned that the lack of testing for NHS and social care staff is ‘unacceptable’.