A LOCAL authority responsible for an area set to be placed under Tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday has called on the military to support it in quickly identifying clusters of Covid-19.

Darlington Borough Council is in talks with the Army to help it distribute 10,000 rapid turnaround Covid tests it has received from the Government to pinpoint those affected by the virus and enable others to continue working.

The authority’s health and housing portfolio holder Councillor Kevin Nicholson said the Public Health England approved lateral flow tests would prove a major boost for the borough.

Boris Johnson has signalled mass community testing is the way out of Tier 3 restrictions, saying it involved “everybody working together to kick Covid out”. The Prime Minister has said the allocation of tiers will be reviewed every 14 days from December 16, suggesting mass testing could make households exempt from restrictions.

Extensive clinical evaluation from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show the tests are accurate and sensitive enough to be used in the community, including for asymptomatic people. The tests can process Covid-19 samples on site without the need for laboratory equipment, with most generating results in under half an hour.

Previously swabbing and processing of tests must had to be conducted at a dedicated testing site by trained personnel, but the latest devices are designed to be intuitive and require minimal training to operate.

A Government spokesman said the lateral flow tests catch all those with high viral loads, meaning they are effective in identifying the cases who are infectious and are most likely to transmit the disease. The fast turnaround also allows positive people to isolate quickly also reducing spread.

Cllr Nicholson said the council’s director of public health was developing a plan on how best to use the tests, but suggested decisions would be made on a case by case basis. He said the council would work with employers, key businesses and community leaders in the coming weeks on how best to deploy the tests.

Cllr Nicholson said: “It’s no secret, resource is an issue if we are to get these to every corner of our community and to be most effective.

“We will be requesting military intervention to provide operational support to the local authority to making sure that we can fully maximise the effectiveness of the lateral flow tests. However, I don’t want people to think we are getting the Army in to test all Darlington residents.

“We are committed to protecting our borough, and we will do what is necessary to bring this virus under control.

“It’s really great news for Darlington, it’s really going to enable us to look at those asymptomatic people across the borough in pockets where we see outbreaks, to enable people to get back to work or understand whether they might have been exposed to Covid.”