Carrier sailors run Covid test centre across Hampshire

Sailors from Britain’s biggest warship are helping people of Hampshire cope with Covid by running test centres across the county.

Men and women from new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales have been mobilised to run Mobile Testing Units at sites across the ship’s home county as part of the military’s support to civilian authorities.

Nearly 3,000 military personnel are involved in this additional help, announced at the end of June by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, building on efforts earlier in the pandemic, which saw Royal Marines run similar centres in the South West.

With Prince of Wales in her home base of Portsmouth undergoing maintenance ahead of renewed trials and training – including embarking F-35 Lightning stealth fighter jets for the first time – she’s provided sailors for seven mobile testing units across Hampshire, plus two more teams on standby if demand needs it.

All have been trained by the Army on how to perform the tests in a safe manner ensuring they are not at risk from the virus.

Sub Lieutenant Joshua Price, who joined HMS Prince of Wales to gain experience of life in a warship as part of his officer training, took charge of one of the test centres.

It is a real privilege and an honour to be part of something that serves to help the country. We are being trained by and working alongside the Irish Guards who are a professional regiment. They passed on their knowledge so we can follow on in their footsteps and do something good in these troubling times.

Sub Lieutenant Joshua Price

So far the carrier’s teams have run sites in Eastleigh, Fawley and Brockenhurst, with more planned in coming days elsewhere in Hampshire, including Farnborough and Alton.

“Being a part of this team allows myself and team members to help the community by providing them a friendly face when they came to get tested,” said Engineering Technician Steven James, who’s normally responsible for the carrier’s communications and IT systems.

“While learning about the process and procedure, I have an understanding of the virus and how to protect myself and others from it.

“This has been a learning curve for all of the public and ourselves and together we can put an end to the virus.”

Naval Airman Michael Paul, who is more used to guiding Merlin helicopters safely around the carrier’s flight deck, was put in charge of a ‘leave station’ where people deposit their completed tests.
“We made sure that people had correctly bagged their tests. After doing that we scanned their codes to make sure their details were linked.

“I’ve enjoyed working at these test sites as it’s something different from my normal line of work and it’s a good feeling helping out during these uncertain times.”