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The military stands up to COVID-19

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

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.”

“There are well-rehearsed mechanisms in place for the military to provide support to civil authorities in times of need.”

So far, the military has already assisted with repatriation flights from China and Japan.

Now 150 military personnel are being trained to drive oxygen tankers in order to support the NHS if required.

By 29 Mar, the first cohort of military personnel will have completed their training to fill the oxygen tankers, drive them safely and deposit the oxygen at NHS facilities.

In addition to the oxygen delivery 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.

Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) is poised to deliver essential supplies to remote regions of the UK and transport people and equipment.

In one of the first instances of medical evacuation during the ongoing pandemic on 15 Mar, JHC responded to a request to transfer a critically ill patient from the Isle of Scilly to Newquay International Airport.

On 23 Mar, a RAF A400M transport aircraft responded to a request to transfer a critically ill COVID-positive patient from hospital in the Shetland Islands to an Intensive Care Unit in Aberdeen.

Meanwhile, soldiers from 4 Regiment RLC delivered 10,000 protective face masks to St Thomas’ Hospital, London on 24 Mar.

So far, fifty members of armed forces personnel have begun assisting the NHS with the distribution and delivery of PPE. The number of personnel is likely to be increased to 250 when the programme is running at full capacity.