Mobile Army testing unit to be based in Scotland's 'coronavirus capital'

The Army is to man a mobile Covid-10 testing unit in an area of Scotland that has become known as the nation’s coronavirus capital on account of its disproportionately high death rate during the outbreak.

Inverclyde's Covid-19-related death rate is the highest of any local authority area in Scotland.

Inverclyde, which spans the towns of Greenock, Gourock, and Port Glasgow, is home to some of the most deprived areas in the country, and has been hit hard by the virus, with 103 deaths in the area to date.

The region’s Covid-19 related death rate stands at 13 per 10,000 people, considerably higher than the national average.

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Amid growing calls from local politicians, the Army will now operate the testing unit from next week.

It will test symptomatic key workers, members of the public over the age of 65, and those who have to leave home to go to work. The household members of each grouping will also be able to undergo tests.

Stephen McCabe, the leader of the council, said yesterday that while the latest statistics pointed to a “steady reduction” in the rate of Covid-19 related deaths in the region, numerous questions remained.

“While our area continues to be sitting at a higher level than other areas the reduction this week may be the one positive we have but it is no cause for celebration,” he said.

“Until there are no more reported cases consistently in our area and across the country each of us must continue to do all we can to protect our community from the worst effects of the virus.”

“Every single death, whether covid-related or from other reasons, is a personal tragedy touching our community and none of us should become complacent until we are free of this awful virus.

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Mr McCabe added: “Media reports and the more detailed analysis from the National Records of Scotland are highlighting a strong link between deprivation and levels of deaths by Covid-19.

“While we have been talking about the need for more analysis of this link for some weeks now the clear link now must be taken seriously to ensure that public policy interventions are directed to areas and communities of greatest need as part of our recovery.

"That recovery cannot be business as usual and must take clear account of the lessons learned from this virus and the devastation it has caused to communities and to address the underlying issues it has exploited.”

The health secretary, Jeane Freeman, is expected to meet the council’s chief executive, Aubrey Fawcett, after the latter pointed out the need for increased testing capacity in the area. It is not known if further units are planned at present.

The new testing facility will be based initially at the Waterfront leisure centre in Greenock town centre, but Inverclyde Council said it may be moved to other locations in the area if required.

The council, which confirmed the changes at its daily briefing, officials said the new unit will “keep essential services running.” It intends to launch a promotional campaign to raise awareness of the new testing regime, and help stem the spread of the virus in the area.

A drive-thru testing facility in nearby Port Glasgow, which opened several weeks ago, will continue to be open to NHS and social care staff.

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