Military on standby to bolster coronavirus response

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Amid reports of military personnel arriving in UK cities including Glasgow, the Ministry of Defence has announced it is placing military personnel at higher readiness as part of a new ‘COVID Support Force’.

The measures are part of contingency planning to respond to any request from government or civil authorities for support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The military has already assisted with repatriation flights from China and Japan and provided specialist expertise to local resilience forums supporting public services, local authorities and emergency services in preparing their response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

On Thursday March 19 the Ministry of Defence announced that up to 10,000 personnel will be placed at a higher readiness to assist with supporting public services – a doubling of the existing stand-by force.

In addition, 150 military personnel will be trained from Monday to drive oxygen tankers in order to support the NHS if required.

Measures have also been taken to call out reservists, should they be required to join the response effort.

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.’