Calls to bring in the army to sort out 'testing chaos'

20 September 2020, 12:32 | Updated: 20 September 2020, 13:57

Tobias Ellwood on military involvement in pandemic response

By Joe Cook

Former Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Sir David King and Defence Select Committee Chair Tobias Ellwood MP have told Swarbrick on Sunday the military should have a greater role in the Government’s approach to coronavirus.

Sir David told Tom: “Our testing and trace system has broken down completely... and if this continues, the only possibility is, I’m afraid, a second lockdown.

“The Government needs to produce a comprehensive plan taking us forward from today, from tomorrow."

He added, “The military is a possibility as well. If I take it back to the disease that I had to handle, the foot and mouth epidemic, we had to turn to the military to manage it and they managed it extremely well. So I think that is not a bad idea.”

Meanwhile, Mr Ellwood called for the military to be brought in to help us live with the pandemic and avoid a national lockdown, which would be “catastrophic for Britain”.

The MP, who is a former captain in the army himself, said: “What you do is you take the best experience, that is what we did in the Second World War, we don’t try to run these things ourselves.”

Sir David King on viability of second lockdown

The military have already been used in logistics, the emergency ‘Nightingale’ hospitals and in testing some NHS staff, but Mr Ellwood called for them to have greater involvement.

“The military are the best strategic planners we have in the country, because they actually plan for crises, they look for and prepare for enduring emergencies,” he told LBC.

“But from what I understand, there is almost a stigma attached to them being in the room to help plan for over the horizon thinking, that is what I would like to see brought in.”

Read more: Soldiers working 15-hour shifts to ensure NHS Nightingale is ready for coronavirus patients

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Sir David, who used to hold Sir Patrick Vallance’s role, said the current test and trace system “is failing” and should be “rebuilt based on tried and tested local national health service and public health structures”.

“These are already in place, it splits the job up down to every local GP and that becomes a doable scale. If we continue to operate through newly formed companies that are operating at a distance, it will not work. That has been tested and it has failed.”

He added, he believes a national lockdown is needed until a functioning testing system is created: “It would take three, four days or maybe a week to get it up through the public services, I would say we need immediate measures.

“This is a last resort, it is a last resort forced on us only because of the test and trace incapacity. In other words, how do we know where the outbreaks are if we don’t have a test and trace system that is operating?”

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