UK

Coronavirus: Military On Standby In Government's COVID-19 Response

The Government says there are arrangements for defence to support civil authorities in response to an outbreak.

Boris Johnson has announced the Government's action plan in response to Coronavirus in the UK 

Speaking this morning about a 27-page plan to tackle COVID-19, the UK Prime Minister said the British Army is "ready to backfill" for the police "as and when" required, as part of "long-established plans" for worst-case scenarios.

However, Mr Johnson later stated the MOD and British military "will be going about their business in the normal way" in the meantime.

What might be required of the armed forces if they were to be involved?

Professor Michael Clarke, former director of think tank the Royal United Services Institute, told Forces News:

"Backing up the police is probably the most obvious thing that the military will do, because if we start to have to rearrange public events, or create public events that will go ahead but with very strict hygiene procedures, then the police will be in the forefront of doing that.

"It may well be that the military will therefore take other, as it were, minor police roles to allow front line police to do that.

"Having the military on the street in most countries makes people frightened. In Britain, it reassures them, although in this case it will be at a higher level of anxiety. But if you're going to have that higher level of anxiety, I can't think of anybody better than British military personnel dealing with it."

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has put plans in place to ensure key domestic and overseas operations can go ahead, amid the spread of COVID-19.

The virus is thought to have first emerged in China, and has taken more than 3,000 lives worldwide.

So far, 51 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Britain.

Military patrols on UK streets are not likely, according to Downing Street, though personnel could be called to cover police duties.

Up to one-fifth of British employees may be forced out of the office in a worst-case scenario, the Government says.

It is understood that authorities may need help in keeping public order.

Speaking today at Downing Street, Boris Johnson says it is "highly likely" the UK will see more cases.

The four-strand plan, to "contain, delay, research, mitigate" the virus, depending on the nature of the outbreak.

England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, estimated that 1% of those who contract the virus could "end up dying".

With Professor Whitty on one flank and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, Sir Patrick Vallance, Mr Johnson assured the nation COVID-19 is "overwhelmingly" moderate in its effects.

"I have no doubt at all that, with the scientific advise that we have... [and] our ability to test and survey the spread of the disease, this country is going to get through Coronavirus.