Twickenham has become the latest major sports stadium in Britain to be given a role in the fight against the coronavirus, it was announced on Saturday.
The southwest London headquarters of English rugby union will play host to a drive-through coronavirus testing facility that is part of the British government’s nationwide effort to increase testing for thousands more National Health Service staff and other key workers.
It will operate on an appointment-only basis for those specific groups of workers, with the facility running as a pilot scheme for its first few days of operation.
So far, 32 testing sites have been opened across the country, with the aim of providing additional swab tests which can identify if someone has the virus.
Frontline health staff who test negative for coronavirus will, it is hoped, return to work as soon as possible while those who test positive are allowed to recover away from their colleagues and patients.
“This new service will help end the uncertainty of whether NHS and social care staff and other key workers need to stay at home, meaning those who test negative will be able to return to work,” said health minister Lord James Bethell.
All major sport has ceased in Britain as part of a nationwide lockdown, meaning grounds can be converted for other uses, with RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney saying on Saturday: “The RFU is pleased to be able to support the Covid-19 drive-through testing programme at Twickenham Stadium for NHS and other key workers.”
A similar testing centre has been established at Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur’s ground in north London.
Other sports venues that have been co-opted as medical facilities since the outbreak of the virus include Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, the headquarters of the Welsh Rugby Union, where a field hospital has been set up on the playing area.