David Oliver describes how armed forces in several countries have given invaluable assistance to civil authorities during the pandemic

For the past two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, military forces in Europe, Russia, and the Far East have been supporting civil authorities. In the UK, the Ministry of Defence set up the COVID Support Force (CSF) in March 2020, using armed forces personnel to assist public services. Since then, Britain’s military has shown rapid planning capacity, a problem-solving mentality, and a capable chain of command

As of May 2021, the MoD had responded to 339 Covid-19 Military Aid to Civilian Authority (MACA) requests under three main areas of effort: helping NHS England to vaccinate people, supporting hospitals across the UK in intensive care units, and assisting with the national testing effort.

Germany, France, Russia
Elsewhere in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel signed off the largest military contingent on the home front in her country’s modern history to help alleviate increasing pressure on the health system. In France, President Emmanuel Macron announced plans for 35 military-run vaccination centres around the country to boost mass immunisation.

Other country’s military forces have been more proactive in their Covid support roles. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin issued an order to provide Covid-related assistance to regions by the medical personnel of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

In four medical institutions of the Republic of Khakassia in the southwestern part of Eastern Siberia, medical specialists of the Central Military District (CMD) took in some 3,000 patients with Covid-19 for treatment in 2021. As part of the medical and nursing teams, there were doctors with significant experience in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with coronavirus infection. Among them are therapists, infectious disease specialists, resuscitation specialists, anaesthesiologists, pulmonologists and other specialists.

The medical staff of the Airborne troops also provided assistance to medical institutions of the Tula region of central Russia, where they provide medical assistance to the civilian population undergoing treatment from Covid-19.

All the medical personnel of the Airborne troops who assisted colleagues in medical institutions of the Tula region had practical experience of such work in the red zone. The vast majority of them had participated in helping to combat the new coronavirus infection in Italy and Serbia in 2020.

China: where it all began
In the Far East, the military force of several countries are heavily involved in supporting the civil authorities. In China, its leaders sought to leverage and coordinate all available resources and capabilities, including military, reserve, and militia forces.

The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that medical capabilities are important for ensuring military readiness and national preparedness. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was a critical component of the pandemic response within Wuhan and beyond, from logistics support to medical research.

Between March 2020 and April 2021, the PLA has provided military medical assistance or donations to 56 countries around the world, and a United Nations peacekeeping mission. To actively implement President Xi Jinping’s vision of building a “community of common health for mankind” and promote anti-pandemic international cooperation, at the request of the Cambodian Armed Forces and approved by China’s Central Military Commission, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) delivered a batch of Covid-19 epidemic prevention and control materials to the Cambodian side in November 2021.

Taiwan, South Korea, Japan
In response to the extension of the level-three nationwide epidemic alert in Taiwan, the 33rd Army Chemical Corps today have sent out officers and soldiers to Taipei, New Taipei and Yilan to support disinfection efforts to protect them from the epidemic.

The 33rd Army Chemical Corps dispatched more than 100 officers and soldiers to support disinfection missions in New Taipei City MRT Yellow Line and screening stations, advanced rescue squadron ambulances, enhanced epidemic prevention and quarantine hotels in Taipei City and other places to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Servicemen cleaned train platforms, waiting areas, stairs, elevators, each entrance and exit, and toilets, as well as other facilities that members of the public have contact with. They were sprayed with disinfectant to ensure a safe environment for commuters.

At the end of 2020 South Korea and Japan deployed their militaries to assist healthcare workers in combating Covid-19. South Korean soldiers were called in to expand coronavirus testing and tracing, while Japanese military nurses filled a shortage of staff at hospitals in the hard-hit regions of Hokkaido and Osaka.

With new strains of Covid surfacing, military support to civil authorities is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Taiwan Army serviceman clean train platforms in Taipei City.
©Taiwan MoD