COVID: How The Military's Been Involved In Fighting Coronavirus

The Armed Forces have played a key role in the fight against the pandemic.

British military personnel have been a key part of the UK's COVID-19 response both at home and overseas, with the Armed Forces now engaged in a major role over the winter months.

This month, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) confirmed the Armed Forces' response to COVID-19 had become the biggest ever homeland military operation in peacetime, with more than 5,000 personnel involved.

Together with the NHS, military personnel are rolling out a COVID-19 mass vaccination programme, with three vaccines now approved for use in the UK.

The Armed Forces have begun delivering the vaccine to people, with personnel also assisting with the logistics and setting up of mass vaccination sites.

This is what the British military has been doing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.


Royal Navy medics give the coronavirus vaccine to people in Bristol (Picture: Crown Copyright).
  • On 12 January, Mr Wallace told MPs the MOD is working closely with public health colleagues and the vaccine delivery “has increased on a daily basis”.
  • While on 18 January, British Army soldiers began establishing 80 new COVID-19 vaccine centres for NHS Scotland, where 98 soldiers, mainly from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, will support NHS Scotland over the next 28 days.

Mobile and community testing 

A soldier from the London Regiment helps run a mobile testing unit in London in June last year (Picture: MOD).

Nightingale hospitals

Personnel helped to set up Nightingale hospitals around the country, which have provided additional care capacity for coronavirus patients.


  • Staff at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), Porton Down, have been working to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and also support testing capabilities.
  • When the coronavirus pandemic began, defence scientists were tasked with helping with the crisis, including finding out more about COVID-19 and ways to stop its spread.
  • We were given special access inside the DSTL, in Wiltshire last year, to learn more about the work of scientists there during the coronavirus crisis.

WATCH: Logistics of COVID vaccination programme 'unparalleled in scale and complexity'.


  • Troops from 247 Gurkha Signal Squadron, part of 16th Signal Regiment, spent 10 days training with pharmacists on how to conduct COVID-19 testing at Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham.
  • Similar programmes also took place in Manchester and Glasgow.
  • While in Liverpool, soldiers taught care home staff and other civilians to carry out COVID-19 testing.

Delivery of PPE and equipment

Supporting ambulance services

RAF personnel carrying out coronavirus testing at Grove Hall testing site in South Derbyshire (Picture: MOD).

Increasing medical capacity

  • Two RAF aircraft, normally used to transport Government ministers and VIPs, were reconfigured in record time to help in the fight against coronavirus. The BAe 146s were adapted as medical evacuation planes for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
  • A group of MPs voiced concern, however, over whether the Government has "made full use" of experts, including those in the Armed Forces.
  • A £1m fund to "fast-track innovation" and help the Armed Forces in the fight against coronavirus was launched by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA). It was set up to discover an "idea or novel approach" that could boost the MOD's capabilities amid the coronavirus outbreak or other similar threats, DASA said.

WATCH: Military personnel deployed to Derbyshire for community testing.

Tackling fake news

  • The Ministry of Defence sent a team to support the Cabinet Office in tackling online misinformation – part of the COVID Support Force effort to bolster the UK's coronavirus defences.
  • In addition, two experts from the British Army joined a NATO team set up to combat disinformation.

Evacuation, transportation and repatriation

Cover image: Personnel assisting with coronavirus testing at Gresley Old Hall, Derbyshire (Picture: MOD).