British military personnel in Cyprus may have to live with the threat of COVID-19 for "up to the next 18 to 24 months".
The warning comes from the Commander of British Forces Cyprus, Major General Rob Thomson, who told Forces News that social distancing will remain part of life for personnel on the island for some time yet.
He said: “We can either relax more measures or we may have to reimpose measures.
"We must never be complacent with COVID because it can come back and we’ve seen second waves elsewhere, so we will not be complacent but we will keep people informed about the measures that are needed.”
According to a tally by US university Johns Hopkins, Cyprus has had 996 cases of COVID-19 and 19 people have died from the disease. Worldwide, more than 10 million people have been infected and 505,000 have died.
Maj Gen Thomson said the outbreak had been a shock, saying: "We knew that these things were out there but when it actually arrives, it really turned lives upside down."
However, the responsible approach of British personnel had allowed them to adapt to the new way of life, he added.
"So we’ve kept our operations working, we’ve changed the ways of working, we’ve maintained social distancing and people have been really disciplined in the way that they have conducted themselves.
"That has meant that the number of cases here on the island has been small and inside the bases has been very small."
Given the operational nature of life for British personnel in Cyprus, Maj Gen Thomson said training has continued during the coronavirus pandemic.
But this has not meant ignoring precautions, he said, adding: "We’ve got social distancing in place but our soldiers are training, our airmen are training.
"Our training has to continue, we’ve adjusted how we do that training, and we very much remain open for business."
He added: "Defence is not necessarily the last resort, but we have seen through COVID that the Armed Forces are really useful across a whole range of activity and I think that brings home to people the utility of the Armed Forces and the almost agility of the Armed Forces to respond to any circumstance.
"I think it was the Secretary of State who talked about the resilience that the Armed Forces offer the nation - that’s a very good phrase for capturing how we can support our beloved nation."
Cover image: Entrance to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus (Picture: PA).