Coronavirus

COVID: Military 'Winter Support Force' On Standby

Defence Secretary says there are some "significant asks from a number of local authorities".

A "Winter Support Force" of 7,500 military personnel has been formed to help authorities deal with COVID-19 in the coming months, the Defence Secretary has told MPs.

Ben Wallace said the Armed Forces will "keep that number under review" and "stand by to help" the efforts to tackle coronavirus ahead of a second nationwide lockdown in England.

Earlier on in the coronavirus pandemic, a total of 20,000 personnel were ready to assist as part of a 'COVID Support Force', consisting of 10,000 servicemen and women at higher readiness, with the same number of troops on standby.

Mr Wallace said: "The UK’s Armed Forces stand by to help the country’s effort in tackling coronavirus.

“Resilience is defence’s middle name and it is that key part of our skill that we are bringing to support most of Government across the country.

"As we speak, we are examining some significant asks from a number of local authorities."

More than 4,000 personnel were deployed at any one time earlier this year, as part of the COVID Support Force, responding to Military Aid to Civilian Authority (MACA) requests.

Since March 2020, the Ministry of Defence has responded to more than 200 MACA requests, while as of Friday 30 October, there were 547 military personnel assisting with 35 open MACA requests.

Most have been involved in helping build the Nightingale hospitals, distribution of PPE and running of mobile testing centres.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the British Army is being used in the rollout of "rapid turnaround tests" for coronavirus.