MONS, Belgium – In Europe, Allied nations continue to gradually take measures relaxing certain national restrictions, as the growth of coronavirus infections slows. Allied nations are making arrangements to allow travel from other nations possible. However, in light of warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the risk of a potential second global coronavirus outbreak, the overall fight against COVID-19 continues. Allies remain committed to providing relief and support to national civil authorities and to each other.
The health of our forces is vitally important
"The health of our forces is vitally important to maintaining readiness to deter and defend our homelands," said Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod D. Wolters. "We have implemented prudent measures to reduce the exposure and transmission of coronavirus to or from our forces, family members, and home stations."
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Allied militaries have helped with logistics and planning, field hospitals, the transport for patients, repatriation of citizens abroad, disinfection of public areas and at border crossings. NATO is also using every asset at its disposal to assist Allies during the COVID-19 crisis, such as the Rapid Air Mobility process which provides relief flights with a special NATO callsign. These flights receive priority routing through the airspace over participating countries.
We are laser-focused on that delivery
The complex discussions and decisions NATO and NATO Allies are making to gradually relax national restrictions, and at the same time, stay mindful of the potential security implications risking further outbreaks, are evident. NATO's primary responsibility is to continue delivering credible and effective deterrence and defence, while helping to limit the virus' spread.
"We are laser-focused on that delivery," said General Wolters. "Our ability to conduct operations has not been undermined, our forces remain ready and our crucial work continues." This is why NATO is able to continue to execute daily operations, continue to conduct our missions and operations to generate peace.
The NATO COVID-19 Task Force continues to coordinate military support to ensure NATO Allies use its military resources most effectively. The Task Force, led by Lieutenant General Olivier Rittimann, Vice Chief of Staff at Allied Command Operations, SHAPE, is determined to use NATO's experience, planning capabilities, expertise in coordinating and executing large-scale operations around the world and preparedness, to work together during the pandemic.
This week again, there have been many examples displaying Allied unity in aiding one another. Here are some highlights of what many nations are doing in support of countering the pandemic:
Albania: Albanian leaders converted a former university building into a 100-bed hospital dedicated to providing care for COVID-19 patients after their treatment from local hospitals for Infectious Diseases. The hospital is planned to provide care for patients until they are fully recovered from COVID-19, as well as utilising the space to store personal protective equipment.
Belgium: Belgian forces continued supporting local efforts to counter COVID-19 while military training facilities have reopened observing protective measures. The Belgian government met this week announcing a continuation of their phased approach to relaxing restrictions including more industry reopening, less stringent group gatherings and non-contact sports at the amateur and professional levels being allowed after June 8. All relaxations are observed with extreme caution and respect to social distancing measures.
Bulgaria: Bulgarian leaders donated supplies of protective medical equipment to NATO partner nation Serbia to support COVID-19 countermeasures.
Bulgarian leaders donated supplies of protective medical equipment to NATO partner nation Serbia to support COVID-19 countermeasures.
Canada: Canadian Armed Forces' Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security programme began a project offering grants for projects that facilitate research and understanding of COVID-19. Canadian troops also continued national efforts supporting elderly homes and long-term care facilities throughout the nation. The Canadian Armed Forces also developed a COVID-19 Awareness Course which will be mandatory for all service members in efforts to increase understanding and share best practices in preventing the spread of the pandemic.
Croatia: Croatian troops continued to commit to supporting national efforts to combat COVID-19 by disinfecting and assisting the transport of supplies.
Czech Republic: The Czech Republic joined a multinational effort to contribute to critical, life-saving aid in Yemen to support the nation's fight against the pandemic. The Czech's also continued their support and involvement in the NATO supported Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) programme that delivered medical supplies to Poland this week.
Denmark: The Danish government announced financial contributions to the countries of Syria and Iraq in efforts to support and stabilise the nations as they battle COVID-19. The nation announced plans to begin relaxing some travel restrictions and also repatriated more than 50 Danes from abroad.
Estonia: Estonian forces paid tribute to peacekeepers around the world with an emphasis on frontline workers combating COVID-19. While restrictions have begun to relax in some Baltic nations, the Estonian government still urged people to continue working from home if possible while respecting social distancing measures in the case that a second wave of the virus hits.
France: France entered its second phase of easing of lockdown measures with bars and restaurants permitted to fully or partially reopen. France's health ministry says however that people should continue applying protective measures against coronavirus even though the number of cases in hospitals and intensive care units continue to fall. Meantime, troops from the French Military Health Service conducted exercises to evaluate future medical teams to provide support to combat COVID-19. Troops also continued supporting national efforts around the country providing reinforcement to civilian efforts as well as logistic support.
French troops lift equipment onto a truck intended to provide relief to French citizens suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Troops continued supporting national efforts around the country providing reinforcement to civilian efforts as well as logistic support.
Germany: A German Navy veteran donated more than 2,000 face shields to the American Red Cross in an act of solidarity in the fight against COVID-19. Troops continue providing support services, donating personal protective equipment and logistical support. The nation also announced a relaxation of some travel restrictions to various EU countries that will begin June 15. The travel warning however will continue until further notice for countries outside the EU.
Greece: The Greek government announced a phased plan to reopen its tourism industry but allowing airports in Athens and Thessaloniki to open on June 15. Further relief of COVID-19 related measures have been imposed while some quarantine measures and social distancing continues to be put in effect.
Hungary: From June 16th, the country's state of emergency will be lifted resulting in the reopening of theatres, museums, cinemas and spas. Meantime, border restrictions remain in force.
Italy: NATO Rapid Deployable Corps Italy continues providing support to COVID-19 related activities across the Lombardy region. A Task Force was established at the beginning of the outbreak to assist local governments in a variety of capacities including essential disinfection efforts. Italian troops continue supporting local authorities in the fight against COVID-19. As Italy celebrated its national holiday celebrations were held while respecting social distancing as some measures began to relax throughout the country including some local travel.
Latvia: Latvia became the first country in the world to launch an app that meets democratic standards and can be downloaded voluntarily to stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as support information dissemination. Latvia donated 10,800 bottles of disinfectant liquid to Spain to fight the spread of COVID-19.
Montenegro: The government of Montenegro continued their gradual approach to relieve restrictions imposed during the pandemic with tourists from lesser impacted nations allowed to visit the country.
Netherlands: Members of the Dutch Air Force's orchestra held concerts outside of retirement homes this week to lift spirits for those affected by COVID-19. The Dutch government has also pledged a financial contribution to active vaccine studies and testing against COVID-19.
North Macedonia: For the weekend of June 4 - 7 the government of North Macedonia will impose an 80-hour lockdown to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Poland: Polish troops continued supporting COVID-19 relief efforts as part of the NATO Combined Joint CBRN Defence Task Force, the nation has also provided donations to Ukraine and Georgia in response to the crisis while Polish medical teams have deployed to Italy, Slovenia, Kyrgystan and the U.S. Poland also delivered 10,000 litres of disinfectant and 100,000 protective gloves as parts of the Euro Atlantic Disasters Response Coordination Centre. Poland sent a convoy of 40 trucks carrying 300 tonnes of personal protection and medical equipment to Belarus to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Romania: Romanian Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) experts continued their mission supporting U.S. medical personnel in an exchange of experiences and best practices against COVID-19.
Romanian and U.S. troops engage in a socially distanced embrace as Romanian troops arrive in Alabama to provide Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear support to U.S. medical personnel in an exchange of experiences and best practices.
Slovakia: Slovakia continued supporting NATO Support and Procurement Agency with contributions to Allied and partner nations.
Slovenia: The Slovenian government announced that on June 5 the border with Austria will be lifted to permit international travel. Volunteers and troops continued efforts throughout the country providing support to various national entities to combat COVID-19.
Spain: As Operation Balmis continues throughout the nation one of the Spanish Force's Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear teams ensured equipment and buildings were properly disinfected to mitigate COVID-19 spread. Throughout the pandemic the nation has supported local food banks donating more than 6 million kilos of food to those in need. To date, more than 500 military personnel and 254 healthcare workers are contributing to the nation's efforts in 14 localities to combat COVID-19.
Turkey: Troops based at NATO's Allied Land Command in Turkey are assisting local efforts by disinfecting buildings in the area, helping to ensure workspaces are clean and protected against COVID-19.
United Kingdom: The U.K. hosted a virtual Global Vaccine Summit raising 8.8 billion USD to contribute to the research of disease cures and control. Troops continue providing support throughout the U.K. to those in need and suffering from COVID-19. Military training academies continued operations while practising social distancing.
United States: U.S. troops assigned to NATO's KFOR mission assisted the local Red Cross in Kosovo by delivering medical supplies to support the nations battles against COVID-19. The U.S. Army also donated respirators and protective goggles to partner nation Belarus.
The NATO-supported Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) executed a mission to Wroclaw on June 3, 2020, bringing 75 tonnes of equipment to Poland to help stem the spread of COVID-19. The AN-124 flight delivered face shields, a mask-making machine, protective clothing, and medical gloves. Requested by Poland's Ministry of National Defence, this marks the fifth SALIS mission carried out in 2020 to support Poland's efforts to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. In total, Poland has airlifted 299 tonnes of medical supplies through this programme.
A NATO supported Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) flight arrives in Poland delivering medical supplies in support of Allied and partner nation's battle against COVID-19.
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, NATO is constantly assessing and adapting. In order to respond, we must continue to stand together, work together and support each other. Allied Command Operations is adapting to the COVID-19 crisis in order to prioritise mission critical activities and sustain the readiness that maintains deterrence.
Allies remain committed to their contributions to NATO including our contributions to the Multinational Battle Groups in the East of the alliance, NATO Air Policing, our maritime deployments and our missions from Afghanistan to Kosovo. NATO's ability to conduct operations has not been undermined. Our forces remain ready and our crucial work safeguarding Allied nations and partners endures.