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Covid: Calls for military personnel to be tested on return to base

Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane.
Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane.

Armed Forces personnel are not being tested for coronavirus “regularly” on their return to base from leave.

Airmen, seamen and soldiers who have not been overseas during their time off are not required to take a test for the virus before reintegrating.

We understand some officers on bases like HMNB Clyde have asked personnel to take tests provided by the local health board or council — being told to say they had been asked to do so by their “employer” if asked to give a reason for being swabbed.

Regular testing of men and women re-entering bases is not standard on any UK mainland operating centre, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

The military has been involved in providing people capable of carrying out tests at centres across the UK, including drive-in labs in Perth and Glasgow.

Military tested
An Army-operated Covid-testing facility in Pitlochry.

But those returning to stations and bases, like Faslane and Lossiemouth in the North East, will not be given tests on site regardless of whether they have come from a “Covid hotspot”.

The Lib Dems have called for a “comprehensive” testing system to be put in place on UK armed forces bases, to try to stem the spread of the virus.

Coronavirus in Scotland – track the spread in these charts and maps

In December it was confirmed a number of positive cases had been identified at Faslane, but the Royal Navy would not confirm how many.

The outbreak was considered to be the explanation why Argyll and Bute had recorded a sharp increase in cases at the end of 2020.

Military tested
Willie Rennie.

‘We should be ramping up testing’

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “With a new and virulent Covid strain spreading, we should be ramping up testing across the country to prevent outbreaks.

“Many armed forces personnel will not live on base. If people are having to journey across the country, there should be a comprehensive system in place to ensure that they don’t have the virus before they mix with colleagues.

“The Scottish Government need to work with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that the system for testing those returning from overseas is expanded and the resources necessary to make this happen are made available.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: “All Armed Forces personnel, including those at HMNB Clyde, adhere to the same health guidelines as the rest of the population.

“This includes obtaining a test through NHS Scotland if required and quarantining when they return from overseas leave.”

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