16:51 GMT08 April 2020
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    Coronavirus Outbreak Turns Into Pandemic (233)
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    On Wednesday, Boris Johnson gave his third daily press conference as hundreds of cases were confirmed in the UK amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the prime minister emphasising that he would bring in tighter measures if necessary to deal with the outbreak.

    The UK Ministry of Defence is announcing that it will boost the size of its civil contingency unit (CCU) to create a 20,000-strong COVID-19 support force amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic, reported The Guardian.

    According to an announcement by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, the CCU, routinely held at higher readiness in case of a civil emergency, will be boosted by an additional 10,000 troops.

    As the country’s police force and NHS services are already working at full capacity to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, reservists could also be called up, said Wallace on Wednesday.

    Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
    © REUTERS / Simon Dawson
    Britain's Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

    The cancellation of training exercises overseas, including in Kenya and Canada, has freed up capacity, said the MoD, as rest and recuperation have been cancelled for the UK’s troops on overseas operations.

    “The men and women of our armed forces stand ready to protect Britain and her citizens from all threats, including Covid-19. The unique flexibility and dedication of the services means that we are able to provide assistance across the whole of society in this time of need", said Wallace.

    Announcing the move, which comes as troops in other countries on lockdown have been instrumental in enforcing compliance with restrictions and preventing looting and other possible civil disruptions, Wallace added:

    “From me downwards the entirety of the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces are dedicated to getting the nation through this global pandemic”.

    The MoD emphasised that aid offered by augmented troops could be used to great advantage in areas such as health service and science.

    Thus, some 150 military personnel of the COVID-19 support force will start training on Monday to assist the NHS in driving oxygen tankers.
    On a scientific level, Public Health England’s research aimed at further studying the virus and tackling its spread will be aided by scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).

    Soccer Football - Premier League - Coronavirus impact on the Premier League - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - March 14, 2020  A fan reads a NHS sign outside St James' Park as the Premier League is suspended due to the number of coronavirus cases growing around the world
    © REUTERS / SCOTT HEPPELL
    Soccer Football - Premier League - Coronavirus impact on the Premier League - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - March 14, 2020 A fan reads a NHS sign outside St James' Park as the Premier League is suspended due to the number of coronavirus cases growing around the world
    “Putting more personnel at a higher state of readiness and having our reserves on standby gives us greater flexibility to support public services as and when they require our assistance”, added Maj. Gen. Charlie Stickland, the assistant chief of the defence staff.

    The Standing Joint Command HQ in Aldershot, Hampshire, will serve as the command and control structure for the COVID-19 support force.

    Military Aid in Repatriation

    Amidst the novel coronavirus epidemic, the UK military has been assisting with its citizens’ repatriation flights from countries such as China and Japan.

    Hundreds of British citizens are currently being brought home from Cuba, which allowed the British-operated MS Braemar cruise ship to dock early on Wednesday after the vessel spent days in search of a Caribbean port that would grant it access.

    Four passengers and one crew member on the MS Braemar have tested positive for the virus, while several passengers and crew members were isolated after displaying influenza-like symptoms. Cuba’s foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, said:

    “[The] decision has been taken in response to [a] health emergency that might put the life of sick persons at risk”.

    Local Response Level

    Local responses to the coronavirus pandemic are also to be boosted by military specialists, The Guardian cited defence sources as saying.

    Robert Jenrick, communities secretary, earlier requested an increase in military help with specific crisis planning expertise, as he highlighted the urgency of “supporting local authority elements of Covid-19 response plans, including social care”.

    Some 70 ununiformed military personnel are to be dispatched to all 38 local resilience forums, to “test planning and identify weaknesses”.

    The Royal Free NHS hospital is pictured in London on February 10, 2020, where some of the UK nationals that have been confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV strain of the novel coronavirus have been taken.
    © AFP 2020 / TOLGA AKMEN
    The Royal Free NHS hospital is pictured in London on February 10, 2020, where some of the UK nationals that have been confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV strain of the novel coronavirus have been taken.

    Typically made up of councils, NHS bodies, emergency services, and the environment agency, the local resilience forums are to be augmented by military planners to help coordinate resources in a crisis.

    UK in Grip of Epidemic

    On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his third daily press conference amidst the spreading coronavirus epidemic.

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he gives a press conference about the ongoing situation with the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak inside 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, March 17, 2020
    © AP Photo / Matt Dunham
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he gives a press conference about the ongoing situation with the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak inside 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, March 17, 2020

    Amid observations that Londoners had not been sufficiently adhering to the government's advice to self-isolate, the prime minister pledged even tighter measures if the volatile situation called for it. Earlier, on Monday, Boris Johnson called for "social distancing" measures to take place, avoid unnecessary social contact, and for all those who could to work from home.

    The current developments come as the total coronavirus cases in the UK have reached over 2,600 and the death toll has risen to over 72.

    Topic:
    Coronavirus Outbreak Turns Into Pandemic (233)

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    Ben Wallace, National Health Service (NHS), National Health Service (NHS), UK Ministry of Defence, lockdown, Boris Johnson, pandemic, pandemic, COVID-19, coronavirus, SARS coronavirus
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