COVID Support Force: the MOD’s contribution to the coronavirus response -


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Tuesday, 24 March 2020

COVID Support Force: the MOD’s contribution to the coronavirus response

The Army delivered personal protective equipment to St Thomas' Hospital in London on 24 March. 
MOD Crown Copyright.
On 18 March the Defence Secretary announced new measures to enable armed forces personnel to support public services in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The COVID Support Force is currently supporting the public services to respond to the outbreak with the following activity.

Strengthening public services

Personnel at readiness

On 18 March the Defence Secretary announced a COVID Support Force to assist public services with the response to the coronavirus outbreak. As of 23 March, there are 250 personnel deployed to assist civil authorities with the response. They are part of 20,000 armed forces personnel currently stood at readiness to take part.

Military planners

The armed forces have contributed dozens of specialist military planners to Local Resilience Forums who are providing support to public services, local authorities and emergency services in preparing their response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Supporting the NHS

Oxygen tanker drivers
Colour Sergeant Nick Barber is taking part in training to drive oxygen tankers in support of the NHS
MOD Crown Copyright.
Armed forces personnel have begun training to drive oxygen tankers in support of the NHS. Around 150 members of personnel from all three services will be trained to drive supplies of oxygen to NHS facilities if required.

Training began at Air Products facilities in Port Talbot and Carrington, near Manchester, on Monday 23 March. By the end of this week, 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.

Delivering personal protective equipment (PPE)

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.

Visiting the ExCeL centre

A small team of military planners visited the ExCeL centre with staff from NHS England to determine if the armed forces could support the NHS response to the outbreak. No final decisions have been taken at this time, but their work continues.

Protecting communities

Assistance to Gibraltar

The Ministry of Defence is providing assistance to the Government of Gibraltar. Around 175 personnel are helping with logistics and planning and the delivery of food and medicine to residents. We are working closely with the Government of Gibraltar to understand their requirements and are carefully considering a request for additional support from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.

Medical evacuations

On Sunday 22 March, an 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. The male patient, in his 60s, was in a deteriorating condition and needed urgently to be evacuated. Before returning to its home base at RAF Brize Norton, the aircraft was cleaned.

Joint Helicopter Command

As part of the military’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, forces from Joint Helicopter Command are on standby to provide aviation capability in support to civil authorities. This will enable access to isolated communities that may not be able to obtain urgent medical care during the coronavirus crisis.

The Support Helicopter Force, Army Air Corps and Commando Helicopter Force will provide helicopters and personnel from all three services to respond as required. 

Repatriation flights

So far, the military have assisted with repatriation flights from China and Japan. This included providing medically-trained members of service personnel and a military runway for aircraft to land in the United Kingdom. The repatriation flights allowed British citizens to return home safely and receive the medical treatment they needed.

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