Boris Johnson expands mass coronavirus testing across England with help of 1,000 soldiers

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Under the Prime Minister’s plan, which launched in Liverpool last week, everyone living in the towns will be swabbed for COVID-19 at sites manned by soldiers. More than 100,000 people in the three towns, one of which is in the Midlands and another in the south of England, will be told to get tested.

Up to 1,000 military personnel will be deployed to testing sites to help the Government meet its targets.

Mr Johnson’s drive is aimed at identifying coronavirus-positive people who have no symptoms, so they can self-isolate and prevent others from contracting the disease.

A senior Government source told The Sunday Times: “The point about mass testing is that if you can test a lot of people who have the virus, but don’t have symptoms, and you can get them to isolate, you can reduce the spread of the disease.”

The Prime Minister is expected to announce the next stage of the programme as early as Monday as ministers plan to ramp up testing over the next month.

The rollout is key to helping him stick to his vow to lift nationwide restrictions on December 2.

He has insisted four weeks of shutdown should be enough to drive down the COVID-19 infection rate.

On Sunday the UK recorded 156 deaths from coronavirus, down from 413 on Saturday.

And 20,572 new infections were added to the tally, compared to 24,957 yesterday.

Scotland is also stepping up mass testing and additional sites are being earmarked by authorities.

On Sunday Scotland recorded another 1,115 positive cases of coronavirus and three more fatalities.

New cases are down from the 1,596 announced on Saturday, although the total number of test results reported fell by more than 12,400 from the previous day’s record-high of 29,644.

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Scotland’s death toll of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days has now reached 3,036 following the three new recorded deaths.

As Wales prepares for the end of its 17-day “firebreak” lockdown on Monday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said a UK-wide approach to the pandemic must be established for Christmas.

He called on the Government to make good on its promise for the four nations to meet and discuss a single approach.

Mr Drakeford said Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove had promised a four-nation meeting this coming week so that country leaders can “pool ideas, plan together and have a common approach to the Christmas period”.

The Labour First Minister said: “I really hope that meeting materialises.”

On whether he wanted to see families reunite over Christmas, he said: “The restrictions people have had to live with are incredibly difficult and demanding, and everybody is tired and fatigued of coronavirus.

“If we can offer respite over Christmas that is what we would want to do.”

The lifting of the Wales lockdown will come a week after the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals in Wales soared to a months-long high.

There were 1,250 people in hospitals – just nine percent lower than the figure reported during the first wave peak in April.

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