From supporting the NHS by building hospitals and supporting ambulance services to mobile testing, the UK military has been on the frontlines of the war against Covid-19.
Although the scars of war in Iraq and Afghanistan will never fade, half a decade of peace within the tri-services has been welcomed by the many soldiers, sailors and airmen and women.
However, a new war has been fought since the start of 2020.
Twenty thousand military personnel have been on standby throughout the crisis as part of the ‘COVID Support Force’, with personnel deployed to assist with open military aid to the civil authorities (MACA) requests.
However, this week the Defence Secretary rejected criticism of COVID-19 testing for UK personnel, amid concerns only 1% have been checked.
Ben Wallace said no mass programme for testing the British military is in existence. He did, however, say “certain individuals” are treated as a priority and there is “all the availability” within the Armed Forces for tests.
According to figures released by the government here is what the British military has been doing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak:
Supporting the NHS –
Army veteran Captain Tom Moore, who raised more than £32 million for NHS Charities Together, officially opened NHS Yorkshire and The Humber via video link.
One hundred and thirty five military medical personnel were said to be assisting NHS staff, helping with basic patient care and monitoring. It was announced a further 160 personnel would help with more “general duties”, including porterage, equipment maintenance, stores management and distribution services.
Personnel helped to set up Nightingale hospitals around the country, which have been providing additional care capacity for coronavirus patients with he first in London, at the site of the city’s ExCeL centre.
A similar facility opened at the NEC in Birmingham and a hospital at Manchester Central Convention Complex, formerly known as the GMEX, opened after being set up with the help of military personnel.
The British Army also helped convert Glasgow’s SEC Centre into a temporary NHS hospital.
Military personnel helped to build a field hospital at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
The Earl of Wessex opened NHS Nightingale Hospital in Bristol.
Nearly 300 personnel were deployed to the two facilities, in Yorkshire and Bristol.
A new 460-bed hospital began being used in Sunderland.
Work has been started to build NHS Nightingale Hospital in Exeter.
Supporting ambulance services –
It was announced nearly 200 Armed Forces personnel from the COVID Support Force were being mobilised to support ambulance services across the country.
Members of the British Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy are supporting NHS ambulance services.
Elsewhere, more than 100 tri-service personnel have trained to drive oxygen tankers in support of the NHS, if required. They were trained to respond to emergencies and drive ambulances when required.
Delivery of PPE –
Regular and reservist personnel, from all three services, have been helping to distribute delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline NHS staff.
The PPE includes items such as masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits.
Royal Air Force aircraft picked up personal protective equipment (PPE) for the NHS from Turkey.
During the Easter weekend, 250,000 items of PPE for medical staff were delivered to RAF Brize Norton ready to be shipped out across the UK.
Engineers from the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the Army began producing the components following an appeal from 3DCrowd UK, a volunteer organisation crowdsourcing 3D printer owners to help produce protective equipment.
Mobile testing –
Mobile coronavirus testing units are operational across the UK, with 92 of 96 facilities being staffed by the military.
The Defence Secretary praised military personnel for their “ingenuity and determination” after getting 92 mobile testing sites ready in the space of just a week.
The Health Secretary thanked the “best of the best” in the British military as he confirmed the Government had met its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests per day.
Royal Marines have gone through specialist training to help the fight against COVID-19, getting them ready to deploy across the south-west of England to support frontline workers.
Soldiers from 247 Gurkha Signal Squadron spent 10 days at Edgbaston Cricket Ground in Birmingham training with pharmacists on how to do covid-19 testing.
Similiar training has been taking place in cities such as Manchester and Glasgow, meaning the military is helping more frontline health workers get tested.