As the Government and nation responds to the COVID-19 outbreak, Defence stands ready to support with up to 20,000 troops on standby to help as part of a new ‘COVID Support Force’.
Our Armed Forces are supporting the response to Coronavirus and providing aid across the UK. With an additional 10,000 military personnel placed at higher readiness and Reserves on standby, these measures are part of prudent contingency planning to support public services and respond in a timely way as part of a new ‘COVID Support Force’.
Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA) is the help and support provided by the military to UK authorities, and is often called upon in times of crisis. MACA will play a key role in the UK’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and 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.
Until now, assistance has been provided with repatriation flights - bringing British citizens home from affected areas around the world such as China and Japan. They have also been providing specialist military planners to Local Resilience Forums that help public services, local authorities and emergency services prepare their response to Coronavirus. MOD has also announced further preparation ready to support public services if required:
• Up to 10,000 additional personnel will be placed at higher readiness, so they are able to assist with supporting public services. This is on top of the 10,000 already held at higher readiness.
• 150 military personnel will be trained, starting Monday, to drive oxygen tankers in order to support the NHS if required.
• Measures have been taken to enable the call out of Reservists, should they be required to join the response 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.
The Standing Joint Command will be the Command and Control Structure for the COVID Support Force, which represents the MOD’s contribution to the cross-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.”