COVID Response Becomes Military's 'Biggest Homeland Operation In Peacetime'

The Ministry of Defence says more than 5,000 personnel are working on 70 different tasks – from testing in schools to vaccine rollout.

The Armed Forces’ response to COVID-19 has become the biggest ever homeland military operation in peacetime, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has said.

More than 5,000 members of the Armed Forces are now deployed across the UK.

According to the MOD, personnel are working on 70 different tasks, from testing in schools to the rollout of vaccines.

From Monday, 800 troops from nine Army regiments will begin assisting with targeted coronavirus testing across Greater Manchester.

The testing is targeting specific populations that may be at higher risk of infection, such as care home workers.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "The New Year will see new levels of Armed Forces support to overcoming this pandemic.

"Thousands of service personnel are working throughout the United Kingdom, wherever they are needed to assist the civil authorities.

"Manchester is the latest of those tasks and will be an important contribution to protecting the highest risk groups as the city seeks to recover.

RAF personnel at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, undertaking training on how to administer coronavirus tests (Picture: MOD).

"As a North West MP I am acutely aware of the considerable time many of us have been labouring under some form of lockdown and I hope our soldiers will help us get to the day when these restrictions will start to lift," he added.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces are also continuing to assist with testing duties in Kent.

Five hundred and fifteen personnel remain involved in testing lorry driversat 20 new sites, in a bid to improve the flow of traffic across the Channel.

One thousand five hundred service personnel are also supporting testing in schools and in Swadlincote, South Derbyshire, 130 personnel are being deployed to establish and operate four lateral flow testing sites.

In Kent, 390 personnel will support community testing, while in Kirklees, Yorkshire, 75 personnel are being mobilised to set up and operate four lateral flow testing sites.

Asymptomatic testing in Lancashire, to identify people who have the virus without showing any symptoms, is to be supported by 420 personnel.  

A soldier assisting with testing duties for lorry drivers on the M20 in Kent (Picture: MOD).

Lieutenant General Sir Tyrone Urch, Commander Standing Joint Commander UK, said: "I am humbled by the sacrifice and dedication of all our people from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force as we continue to contribute to our nation's fight against the coronavirus."

Ten military planners have also been deployed to assist the Vaccine Task Force, while more than 150 personnel are deplopyed around the UK to support organisational and logistical efforts. 

From 11 January, a Vaccine Quick Reaction Force is being set up, with preparations for that role starting today (4 January).

In Scotland, military planners are supporting testing and vaccine programmes.

And in Wales, 90 service personnel are deployed to support Health Boards in quickly setting up and running vaccination centres. Trained defence medics will support the administering of the vaccine.

Cover image: Personnel deployed on coronavirus duties in Medway, last month (Picture: MOD).