Customers wear face masks because of the coronavirus pandemic as they shop at Borough Market in London on January 12. (AFP)
Customers wear face masks because of the coronavirus pandemic as they shop at Borough Market in London on January 12. (AFP)

Covid-19: UK armed forces dealing with ‘most dangerous situation’

This is the largest peacetime resilience operation ever undertaken by the UK armed forces and is drawing on every corner of expertise of the military, defence secretary Ben Wallace told parliament on Wednesday, as new cases and deaths continued to surge.
By Prasun Sonwalkar , edited by Vinod Janardhanan
UPDATED ON JAN 13, 2021 07:03 PM IST

Record numbers of personnel from British armed forces have been deployed to help deal the “most dangerous situation” in living memory facing hospitals, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and ministers implored Britons not to flout current lockdown rules.

This is the largest peacetime resilience operation ever undertaken by the UK armed forces and is drawing on every corner of expertise of the military, defence secretary Ben Wallace told parliament on Wednesday, as new cases and deaths continued to surge.

Johnson confirmed in parliament on Wednesday that vaccination centres will soon be open 24 hours to enable more people to be vaccinated.

There have been several reports of Britons weary of continuing restrictions violating them, prompting Scotland Yard in London and other police forces imposing heavy fines. Some hospitals are shifting non-Covid patients to hotels to free up space for new coronavirus patients.

According to chief medical officer Chris Whitty, “Hospitals are always busy in the winter but the NHS in some parts of the country is currently facing the most dangerous situation anyone can remember”.

Wallace said a record 5,300 personnel committed to winter and Covid operations have been supporting 56 different tasks in the UK and abroad, including the vaccine rollout, NHS support and community testing across the UK.

Nearly 1,600 military medical professionals are deployed in the hospitals every day, from intensive care nurses to specialist surgeons, which means that very few defence medics are not currently deployed or working in the NHS.

Wallace said: “Our country faces an unprecedented challenge and our Armed Forces are working hand in hand with the NHS. We will continue to bolster those on the front line as they protect and care for the most vulnerable”.

Chief of the defence staff General Nick Carter added: “These are really challenging times for everyone at the moment. We all have a role to play in supporting those on the frontline in the fight against the virus”.

The ministry of defence said the military is also working with education authorities to ensure that staff, vulnerable children and children of key workers can continue to attend school. Military planners and liaison officers are also embedded in local authorities and government departments, it added.

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