Coronavirus: ‘COVID Support Force’

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Military to combat covid-19

The Defence Secretary announces new measures to put service personnel and Reservists on standby to support public services in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The UK military have had a history of supporting civilian services and authorities. From manning the famous Green goddess fire engines providing fire cover in a number of fire strikes, notably in 1977 and 2002 to the present day lumping sandbags for makeshift flood defences in the recent flooding crisis around the UK.

This time the military are called upon to sure-up wherever they are needed and keep Britain running. This is a war footing and only discipline and action can win the day.

“It feels like we’re getting ready for war, but this time at home.

“This is what the military is good at, we are always planning scenarios and ready to step in to help, however I’ve never known anything like this. There are just so many unknowns.”

It is also understood that Army medics and Doctors are to be called in to work alongside the NHS as it has been claimed one in eight people in the UK will be infected with coronavirus.

As yet the British Army has not been called upon including their medics and doctors, but there are plans for 11,200 trained medical staff to assist the NHS.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources said, “nothing is off the table” and emergency field hospitals could be set up.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) will put an additional 10,000 military personnel at a higher readiness and place Reserves on standby to support public services as part of a new “COVID Support Force”, the Defence Secretary has announced.

These measures are part of prudent contingency planning to respond in a timely way to any request from other governments departments or civil authorities for support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Medics and doctors, but there are plans for 11,200 trained medical staff to assist the NHS.

Up to 20,000 service personnel will be put on standby to help combat the coronavirus, with troops gearing up to drive oxygen tankers, support the police and boost hospital capacity.

On Thursday, reservists will be put on notice to mobilise if required as part of a war-like effort to prepare the armed forces in case the government calls upon them in large numbers.

But the military must also deal with the threat posed by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Commanders are taking steps to isolate or quarantine personnel on the UK’s most important security missions – such as the ability to respond to a terrorist attack or to protect UK skies from hostile aircraft – to ensure they are not sick.

In addition, all holiday leave has been cancelled for troops deployed on operations overseas, while training exercises in Canada and Kenya have been postponed.

“The men and women of our armed forces stand ready to protect Britain and her citizens from all threats, including COVID-19,” Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

“The unique flexibility and dedication of the services means that we are able to provide assistance across the whole of society in this time of need.

So far, the military have assisted with repatriation flights from China and Japan. They are also providing specialist military planners to Local Resilience Forums who are providing support to public services, local authorities and emergency services in preparing their response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Today, the MOD can announce further preparation ready to support public services if required:

  • up to 10,000 personnel will be placed at a higher readiness, so they are able to assist with supporting public services. This is on top of the 10,000 already held at higher readiness.
  • 150 military personnel will be trained to drive oxygen tankers in order to support the NHS if required. They will begin training on Monday.
  • measures have been taken to enable the call out of Reservists, should they be required to join the response effort
  • scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) are supporting Public Health England’s effort to understand the virus and tackle the spread.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The men and women of our armed forces stand ready to protect Britain and her citizens from all threats, including COVID-19. The unique flexibility and dedication of the services means that we are able to provide assistance across the whole of society in this time of need.

From me downwards the entirety of the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces are dedicated to getting the nation through this global pandemic.

There are well-rehearsed mechanisms in place for the military to provide support to civil authorities in times of need. Most recently the military has been called on to support the government’s response to flooding.

Defence is fully engaged with other government departments, the devolved administrations and local authorities to establish how best it can support over the coming weeks and months.

The Standing Joint Command will be the Command and Control Structure for the COVID Support Force, which represents the MOD’s contribution to the government response.

Major General Charlie Stickland Assistance Chief of the Defence Staff Operations and Commitments said:

Putting more personnel at a higher state of readiness and having our Reserves on standby gives us greater flexibility to support public services as and when they require our assistance.

The COVID Support Force, potentially drawing upon our highly skilled scientists at Defence Science and Technology and Laboratory or oxygen tanker drivers, will form part of a whole force effort to support the country during its time of need. Our servicemen and women are committed to maintain our operational output and delivering any support the government requires.

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