FLANKED by Brigadier Joe Fossey, Tory PM Johnson set out the mass testing programme trialled in Liverpool in which 2,000 troops have been sent into the city in an extraordinary broadening of the role of the state.
Johnson was speaking yesterday afternoon at a press briefing where he first spoke of a ‘breakthrough’ in the development of a vaccine.
He said: ‘Across this country and around the world, people are asking themselves the same question about where we have got to in our fight against Covid.
‘And that is: does the progress towards a vaccine that has been announced today mean that we are at the beginning of the end of our troubles?
‘Let me set out our assessment: The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been tested on over 40,000 volunteers and interim results suggest it is proving 90% effective at protecting people against the virus.
‘But we haven’t yet seen all the safety data and these findings also need to be cleared and reviewed.
‘We have cleared one significant hurdle, but there are several more to go before we know that the vaccine can be used.’
He announced that the number of Covid patients in hospitals has risen from 10,000 to 13,000 and that the mass testing in Liverpool will also be rolled out to university campuses up and down the country.
Brigadier Joe Fossey, addressing the press conference, said: ‘I am coordinating the military support for mass testing in Liverpool … Over 2,000 troops have answered the call to help tackle Covid-19 by setting up a number of testing sites in the City.
‘To date we have established 19 sites by working hard with the Local Authorities each day.’
He claimed to have established a partnership between the council, the army and the government: ‘I should point out that we are working in support of Liverpool City council, the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and the Department of Health and Social Care to improve the concept of rapid testing.
‘We are demonstrating partnership in action, enhancing the City’s ability to break the chains of transmission and helping to drive down the number of Covid cases.’
He added: ‘Many of us have served on operations abroad, we know what makes an effective team.’