Coronavirus

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 from the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy 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.

Last 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 are 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.

Vaccines

Royal Navy medics give the coronavirus vaccine to people in Bristol (Picture: Crown Copyright).
  • In January, British Army soldiers began establishing 80 new COVID-19 vaccine centres for NHS Scotland, where hundreds of personnel are now working as part of the response.
  • In Wales, more than 90 service personnel have been supporting Wales' Health Boards to establish and operate vaccination centres.
  • An additional 96 personnel were deployed in Wales, including 20 defence medics who will boost the capacity of the team administering vaccines.
  • On 22 January, Armed Forces medics administered vaccines to military veterans at Broughton House.

Mobile and community testing 

  • Thousands of personnel have been supporting community testing in England.
  • Soldiers from the British Army have been supporting targeted coronavirus testing in Greater Manchester.
  • Up to 1,000 troops are being deployed to assist across all 10 local authority areas in the region to carry out asymptomatic testing of specific populations.
  • Personnel were also deployed on testing duties in Kent as more than 20 new testing centres were set up for hauliers crossing the Channel to France.
  • Since 23 December, they have carried out more than 44,000 tests.
  • Around 320 military personnel remain on task in Kent, where they keep assisting with testing and supporting traffic management.
  • Armed Forces personnel have also been supporting COVID-19 testing schemes in locations including Liverpool, Kent Medway Towns and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales.
  • About 110 personnel were also deployed to Birmingham in September, supporting the city council's 'Drop and Collect' testing initiative. It saw personnel helping to deliver home coronavirus testing kits to people with or without symptoms living in high-risk areas.
  • Around 420 personnel are in Lancashire to assist with COVID-19 testing.
  • 130 personnel were deployed to three sites in south Derbyshire to carry out asymptomatic testing. Two sites have since closed but the third has been handed back to the local council to continue the testing process.
  • Earlier in the pandemic, the military set up and operated testing mobile testing units across the country.
A soldier from the London Regiment helps run a mobile testing unit in London in June last year (Picture: MOD).

Hospitals

Personnel are supporting the NHS in health centres and have helped to set up Nightingale hospitals around the country, which have provided additional care capacity for coronavirus patients.

Laboratory

  • 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'.

Training

  • 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.
  • In Liverpool, soldiers taught care home staff and other civilians to carry out COVID-19 testing

Delivery of PPE and equipment

  • Regular and reservist personnel from all three services helped to distribute and deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline NHS staff. The PPE included items such as masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons, and protective suits.
  • The British Army teamed up with eBay to help healthcare workers find and order free PPE.
  • Alongside distributing supplies to medical personnel during the pandemic, the military has been 3D printing PPE components. Engineers from the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and the Army began producing the components following an appeal from 3DCrowd UK, a volunteer organisation crowdsourcing 3D printer owners to help produce protective equipment.

Supporting ambulance services

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

Increasing medical capacity

  • There have been 2,400 military medical professionals deployed to work alongside joining the NHS each day, according to the Ministry of Defence.
  • Personnel, including combat medical technicians and soldiers, are currently working alongside doctors and nurses in hospitals across London and the Midlands. 
  • Hundreds of additional defence medics and general duties personnel have deployed to support hospitals across England.

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).