Army deployed to assist with surge testing in parts of North West England

15 May 2021, 08:38

People queue for the vaccination centre at the Essa Academy in Bolton
People queue for the vaccination centre at the Essa Academy in Bolton. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

People are being urged to "think twice" if they're planning to stay with friends and family next week in areas of England where the Indian variant of coronavirus has been found.

The army is being sent to parts of the north west to help with testing.

There will also be "targeted new activity" in Bolton and Blackburn to accelerate the vaccine rollout, Boris Johnson said at a press conference last night.

Surge testing is under way in the region where cases involving the Indian variant of coronavirus are on the increase.

The "variant of concern" has been detected in Bolton, Greater Manchester, as well as in Blackburn, Lancashire, and Sefton in Merseyside, which have all seen rates rise rapidly.

READ MORE: Surge testing begins in Hackney after India and South Africa Covid variants detected

The Prime Minister said at a press conference yesterday: "I do not believe that we need, on the present evidence, to delay our road map and we will proceed with our plan to move to step three in England from Monday."

Mr Johnson announced that the rollout of second doses for over 50s and the clinically vulnerable will accelerate in England.

The government is trying to clamp down on the spread of the "variant of concern" that was first found in India.

The prime minister stressed that the "good news is that so far we have no evidence to suggest that our vaccines will be less effective in protecting people against severe illness and hospitalisation" with the B.1.617.2 variant.

People in parts of Hackney in east London are also being urged to get screened after the discovery of the strain.

Speaking at Downing Street last night, England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty explained why experts are concerned.

He said: "We expect over time this variant will overtake and come to dominate in the UK."

Mr Johnson said Colonel Russ Miller, Commander of the North West Region, will be "deployed to support local leaders in managing the response on the ground".

He told the press conference: "There will be surge testing, with mobile testing units, and the army will be on the streets handing out tests.

"And there will be targeted new activity in Bolton and Blackburn to accelerate vaccine take-up among eligible cohorts - including longer opening hours at vaccination sites."