Great Britain

Army on standby to help emergency ‘door-to-door’ coronavirus testing after infections spike in Birmingham

THE BRITISH Army is on standby to help carry out emergency door-to-door in Birmingham amid a surge in infections.

Coronavirus cases in the city hit 107.6 per 100,000 people asnew restrictions on households mixing were rolled out in a local lockdown.

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Birmingham City Council and the Ministry of Defence are expected to finalise the deal next week, reports The Birmingham Mail.

Soldiers will be drafted in to help assist the council's "drop-and-collect" door-to-door testing service.

Council leader Brigid Jones told a meeting of the West Midlands Combined Authority on Friday that the plan will involve going to people's homes in high risk areas.

Ms Jones said army staff will not be acting in a "military" capacity or carrying out "enforcement".

The troops will be there as "boots on the ground" bridging any gaps needed in services carried out by civilian staff.

Army personnel and council workers will offer up home tests to people even if they don't have symptoms in an aggressive bid to control the virus.

She said: "We have been in talks with the military about them giving us some extra capacity for drop-and-collect.

"It's very much in an extra capacity, feet-on-the-ground sense. It's literally just to support the civilian effort side of things and we'll be in a position next week to confirm whether or not they will be providing extra capacity and how that might be working."

New restrictions were introduced in Brimingham on September 15 as separate households were banned from meeting in homes and gardens.

Ms Jones added: "We are doing it because these are areas where there are very high levels of Covid and we believe there may be asymptomatic people and other people in the community who haven't accessed tests.

"We are two weeks into intervention in Birmingham, where we have been asking households not to mix in gardens and homes because those are still the areas where we think we are getting the most cases from, followed by workplaces where social distancing isn't being observed properly."

Some 500 members of city council staff have already been deployed to Brimingham's doorstep testing initiative.

Birmingham's testing plan is different from the national advice which encourages people to not get tests unless they have symptoms.

City officials hope they can root out asymptomatic carriers who may unwittingly carrying and spreading the virus.

Teams in high-vis jackets will be seen knocking on doors and offering household tests as part of the operation.

The swabs are self administered and then collected an hour later to be sent off for analysis.

It comes as almost one quarter of the country are now under coronavirus restrictions as cases continue to rise across Britain.

"Our plea to residents would be, if one of our staff knocks on your door, please take up the opportunity to take a test," the council leader added.

Hospital admissions have been "high but stable" in Birmingham - but 6.7 per cent of tests are now coming back as positive.

West Midlands Police are also urging people to report others for breaking coronavirus rules.

Assistant police and crime commissioner Waheed Saleem pledged officers will "move faster" to deal with rule breakers.

He said there have been on average 200 calls a day to the force about breaches since September 20.

Assistant chief constable Claire Bell said: "We are finding there are a small minority that are repeatedly willfully flouting the rules."

Yesterday, UK coronavirus cases reached their highest ever number for a Saturday with 6,042 infections.

The total number of Covid-19 cases has now risen to 429,277 - with the seven-day rolling average surging by 54 per cent in a week.

Also, the coronavirus R rate has gone up again across the UK - and could be as high as 1.5, experts have warned.

The figures however marks the first drop after five straight days of rises.

Regarding recent spikes in coronavirus cases, Public Health England medical director Yvonne Doyle said: "This is the highest number recorded and a stark warning for us all. The signals are clear.

"Positivity rates are rising across all age groups and we’re continuing to see spikes in rates of admission to hospital and critical care.

"We must all follow the new measures that have been bought in to help control the virus and download the new NHS Covid-19 App which is the fastest way of knowing when you’re at risk."

However, the NHS app was blighted by problems at launch as some could not even register their tests as they didn't have codes.

Anti-lockdown protesters flood Trafalgar Square as Corbyn’s brother among thousands marching against Covid restrictions

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