The entire population of Liverpool will regularly be offered a coronavirus test in a pilot scheme with support from the armed forces.

The city, which has been under strict tier 3 restrictions for nearly three weeks, has seen its case numbers starting to fall over recent days.

The scheme will use new, rapid turnaround tests, with 2,000 members of the military working alongside NHS staff. The population of the city will be offered tests on a regular basis, even if they are asymptomatic.

Announcing the pilot scheme, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “I want to thank the civic leaders of¬†Liverpool¬†for volunteering to join the UK’s first city-wide population testing pilot and the people of Liverpool for taking part.

“These tests will help identify the many thousands of people in the city who don’t have symptoms but can still infect others without knowing.

“Dependent on their success in Liverpool, we will aim to distribute millions of these new rapid tests between now and Christmas and empower local communities to use them to drive down transmission in their areas.

“It is early days, but this kind of mass testing has the potential to be a powerful new weapon in our fight against¬†COVID-19.”

Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson said: “We are pleased that our numerous conversations have resulted in Liverpool becoming a pilot for mass testing, which will help to quickly identify people who have the virus and reduce transmission substantially.

“We are seeing a slow reduction in figures in Liverpool which shows we are on the right path and residents and businesses are working together and following guidelines for the greater good.

“We hope this new initiative boosts our efforts, and we will continue to see the numbers of positive cases drop across the city.”