UK: 20,000 troops readied for 'COVID Support Force'

British military doubled size of its civil contingency unit to assist public services over coronavirus outbreak

Karim El-Bar   | 19.03.2020
UK: 20,000 troops readied for 'COVID Support Force' FILE PHOTO


British Defense Ministry has doubled the size of its civil contingency unit to 20,000 troops to help the government deal with the coronavirus outbreak, the ministry said in a statement.

A further 10,000 troops have been placed at higher readiness as part of the 'COVID Support Force' to assist public services.

“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,” Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.

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

150 military personnel will be trained to drive oxygen tankers in the event the NHS need assistance. Measures were also taken to enable reservists to be called upon to join the military’s effort, and scientists from the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory are supporting Public Health England to understand the coronavirus and tackle its spread.

The military have already helped repatriate British citizens from China and Japan and are helping local authorities plan their response to the outbreak.

Sky News reported: “Planners are looking at options possibly to convert a hotel into a makeshift medical facility or perhaps military barracks. The armed forces could even set up tented field hospitals or use a hospital ship.”

Maj. Gen. Charlie Stickland, the assistance chief of the Defense 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.”

COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China last December, and has spread to at least 159 countries and territories. The WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.

Out of more than 227,000 confirmed cases, the death toll now exceeds 9,300, and over 84,500 have recovered, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S.

Despite the rising number of cases, most who become infected suffer only mild symptoms and recover.

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