The Daily Mail has quoted UK Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey as saying on Thursday that NATO should play a bigger role in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, efforts that the Labour frontbencher claimed could prove vital in the coming months.
“Coronavirus doesn't respect national borders. Our response to coronavirus must be international too”, Healey said, adding that Britain’s NATO allies are “facing the same challenges as we are”.
In an apparent nod to personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies, he stressed that “by stepping up our joint work with other countries, we can get the equipment and manpower to where it's needed most”.
“UK government ministers should put NATO cooperation at the heart of our international response to coronavirus. 'It's good for Britain, and good for our closest allies too”, Healey pointed out.
The Shadow Defence Secretary called for the wider use of NATO's “Rapid Air Mobility” mission so that PPE and vital supplies can be quickly airlifted to the most affected areas amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
To that end, resource-sharing needs should be stepped up between NATO allies in order to resolve possible PPE and testing kit shortages in these areas, according to Healey.
His remarks come as kind of an about-face by Labour on the alliance, following late reports late last year about then-party leader Jeremy Corbyn making stern NATO-related comments in 2014.
“" am no fan of NATO, indeed I wish NATO didn't exist. I am no fan of Western military alliances, indeed I wish they didn't exist", the Daily Mail quoted Corbyn as saying at the time.
NATO, which has already been involved in delivering vital coronavirus-related help, announced last week that it supports practical scientific cooperation with member states and partners to enhance COVID-19 diagnosis efforts. As of Wednesday, confirmed coronavirus cases have soared to more than 3.5 million, with over 247,500 fatalities, according to the World Health Organisation’s latest situation report.