LONDON, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- The British armed forces will remotely support mass testing of secondary school students in England and be on standby to provide in-person support at short notice if needed, the British Ministry of Defence said Tuesday.
The ministry said 1,500 military personnel will hold webinars and give phone support to school staff in setting up mass COVID-19 testing when the new school term begins next week.
The military has previously helped organise mass testing in Liverpool, and more recently in Kent to clear the backlog of lorries after France closed its border with Britain amid fears of the spread of a new coronavirus strain.
But teaching unions said schools have not been given enough time to make plans, and some headteachers said the British government should delay the start of the new school term.
British scientists are urgently investigating hints the new variant of coronavirus spreads more easily in children.
Preliminary research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggested that schools and universities might need to close on top of existing Tier Four restrictions to bring the new variant under control.
The students are due back to schools next week starting from Jan. 4, 2021, but the majority of secondary school pupils in England will begin the school term by studying remotely, to give head teachers time to implement the coronavirus testing program for students and staff.
Wales and Scotland have delayed or revised the start of the new term. Northern Ireland schools are due back next week, according to the BBC.
Another 41,385 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, marking the highest daily increase in coronavirus cases since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country, according to official figures released Monday.
To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States are racing against time to develop coronavirus vaccines.