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Coronavirus outbreak: UK military sets up ‘COVID Support Force’

So far, the UK military has assisted with repatriation flights from China and Japan. Measures have also been taken to enable the call-out of Reservists, should they be required to join the response effort.

Updated: Mar 19, 2020 22:10 IST

By Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times London

A commuter wearing a protective face mask moves along a train at Liverpool Street station in London, UK. (Bloomberg file photo)

The Boris Johnson government on Thursday announced for the formation of a new ‘COVID Support Force’ comprising 10,000 military personnel, besides 150 others trained to drive oxygen tankers across the UK to support the National Health Service deal with the coronavirus challenge.

The new force is on top of the 10,000 already held at high level of readiness, as part of contingency planning to respond in a timely way to any request from other governments departments or civil authorities for support, the ministry of defence said.

So far, the UK military has assisted with repatriation flights from China and Japan. Measures have also been taken to enable the call-out of Reservists, should they be required to join the response effort.

The ministry said scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory 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”, he said, adding that there are well-rehearsed mechanisms in place for the military to provide support to civil authorities in times of need.

Major-general Charlie Stickland 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”.

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