Soldiers who set up mass testing in Liverpool to get Freedom of the City

11 December 2020, 18:06 | Updated: 11 December 2020, 18:35

Soldiers who helped set up Liverpool's mass testing pilot to receive Freedom of the City
Soldiers who helped set up Liverpool's mass testing pilot to receive Freedom of the City. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Soldiers who helped set up and run the mass Covid testing pilot in Liverpool are to receive the Freedom of the City.

Around 2,000 troops were deployed to the Merseyside city at the beginning of November which helped to facilitate more than 200,000 tests at almost 50 centres.

Since their arrival, Liverpool's coronavirus infection rate has dropped from 680 infections per 100,000 people to below 100.

Brigadier Joe Fossey, commander of the 8th Engineer Brigade, which has spearheaded the operation, was presented with a scroll on Friday which called for the soldiers to be included in the Freedom Roll of Associations.

"I am extremely proud of what we have all achieved in such a short time and how warmly we have been received by all those in the city," Brig Fossey said.

"To receive Liverpool's highest civic honour crowns an extraordinary six weeks for all of us and marks an important moment in the continuing fight against Covid-19."

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Soldiers look at the scroll that was presented to Brigadier Joe Fossey
Soldiers look at the scroll that was presented to Brigadier Joe Fossey. Picture: PA

Their inclusion will be ratified during a council meeting in January and each of the troops involved will later receive a special commemorative coin as a civic gift from the city.

Deputy mayor of Liverpool Wendy Simon, said: "We owe the British Army troops an incredible debt of gratitude for their work in setting up and staffing testing centres across the city over the last month.

"We have had so many compliments about their patience, helpfulness and professionalism in supporting people through the process of having a test.

"Let us remember that nothing like this had been tried on this scale before in this country, and in record time, so they should be truly proud of their role in helping Liverpool and the wider city region come out of the lockdown in a lower tier than we entered it."

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During their stay, the regiments were put up in Pontins Southport Holiday Park.

The scroll, presented to Brig Fossey, reads: "At the height of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in November 2020, The Associated Regiments of the British Army led by 8 Engineer Brigade on behalf of Standing Joint Command (United Kingdom) were assigned to support the City of Liverpool in its fight against the pandemic in co-ordinating and providing mass testing across the city.

"The city acknowledges the fantastic contribution of all personnel in such difficult and unprecedented times and thanks them all for their outstanding leadership."

Responsibility for testing centres in Liverpool has now been handed over to private contractors to run which are providing Systematic Meaningful Asymptomatic Repeated Testing (Smart) community testing, that focuses on encouraging people to get tested before they mix with others.

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