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Apr 25 2020

Allied Nations Support COVID-19 Battle, weekly roundup

MONS, Belgium – In responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, NATO continues to deliver credible deterrence and defence. Our ability to conduct operations has not been undermined, our forces remain ready, and our crucial work goes on, and so is the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic the world is facing.

“Allies continue to stand close together and support each other, especially during these trying times, and we do so through different NATO arrangements, and we’ve done so and will continue to do so via bilateral arrangements,” said Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Tod D. Wolters.

We grieve with you

“With respect to the COVID pandemic, our sincere condolences to all who have suffered from the tragic loss of life as a result of COVID-19. We grieve with you,” General Wolters added earlier in the week, addressing the pandemic in a media-interview.

At the same time, NATO recognises the importance of credible information. As military forces, we have an obligation to be truthful, timely and accurate in what we say and what we do. Especially in this time of crisis, transparency is vital. NATO continues to work towards neutralizing misinformation and delivering accurate and truthful facts. “Our partnership and trust with one another is steadfast, and it will remain so long after COVID-19 is over with,” General Wolters expressed.

The recently installed 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 in Belgium, 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.

We do this for a living, and we do this to accomplish our mission

"What we can bring is the skills we have, the structures we are operating and the professionalism of our teams. We have teams whose job it is to do crisis management,” said Lieutenant General Rittimann. “The approach is more in a military sense, but if we have the resources and the directives and the guidance to conduct a crisis planning, we have all the professionals to do so”, he added to explain that the Task Force is determined to continue to do Strategic Coordination with international organisations and agencies around the world that are working together with NATO to fight this crisis. “We do this for a living, and we do this to accomplish our mission.”

Again this week, there have been many examples that display Alliance unity in aiding one another. Here are some highlights of what many Allied nations’ armed forces are doing to support relief efforts:

Albania: Albania has sent medics to Italy to assist in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Belgium: Belgian soldiers belonging to the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear division decontaminate medical vehicles. The  soldiers from the medical component also went to the rescue at the Sainte-Gertrude residential care centre in Brussels.       

Belgian soldiers belonging to the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear division decontaminate medical vehicles in the fight against COVID-19 – Belgium Ministry of Defence. 

Bulgaria: Bulgarian Armed Forces have equipped and disinfected a floor of a former student hostel for accommodation, if required, to quarantine citizens.

Canada: The Canadian Armed Forces have loaded a CC-130J Hercules with rations, personal protective equipment and other supplies, headed to Northern Quebec to support Canadian Rangers deployed on Operation LASER. The operation is the Canadian Armed Forces response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, military personnel are also deployed to care homes in the province.

A Royal Canadian Air Force CC-130J Hercules loaded with rations and medical supplies headed to Northern Quebec to support Canadian Rangers – Photo by the Canadian Armed Forces

Czech Republic: Military personnel have built and equipped nine testing sites in Prague, Brno and Litoměřice, Olomouc, Uničov and Litovl. They are also manning mobile collection teams in all counties. Each team consists of two paramedics that collect and transport samples to regional laboratories in the effort to combat COVID-19. Furthermore, at the request of the Greek government, the Czech Republic is sending sanitary items, mattresses, sleeping bags and blankets in the amount of 160,000 Euros, as part of the MEDEVAC programme, to assist migrant and refugee camps in Greece.

Estonia: Estonia has donated medical supplies to Italy and Spain, including 30,000 facemasks and 2,000 units of disinfectant manufactured by the local producer Nordic Group OÜ, to each Ally. Additionally, Estonia allocated 100,000 Euros through the International Red Cross to both countries. Italy and Spain requested assistance via NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre.

Estonia sent much needed medical supplies to Spain to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic – Photo by Spanish Armed Forces

France: The French military is assisting in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in numerous capacities including the following: Armed Forces soldiers patrol and protect sensitive sites around the country, 130 medical personnel have been transported by the Armed Forces to different parts of the country while 8 Army Training Hospitals treated 7,845 patients with COVID-19 since the start of the crisis. Additionally, the Army Health Support Unit deployed to the Croix Rousse hospital to strengthen the hospital's logistical capacities, the army is supporting nursing homes by creating sanitary airlocks which allows nursing staff to be safely equipped before reaching their patients. Furthermore, the amphibious helicopter carrier Mistral and the frigate Guépratte deliver medical equipment and food to Mayotte.

Germany: As of this week, the Bundeswehr has been supporting the health authorities to trace chains of infection with Germany taking in so far around 200 seriously ill patients from EU countries for treatment. The Bundeswehr is supporting the COVID-19 efforts in Germany in numerous capacities including, air transport and treatments in its hospitals, the manufacture of mouth-nose covers, assisting in the operation of a drive-in station for testing, the military hospital in Koblenz quickly adjusting capacities to accept civilian intensive care patients, supporting civilian nurses in nursing homes, assisting with COVID-19 testing at the asylum seekers centres while German military medical students are supporting the makeshift hospital at the Hannover Messe. Furthermore, Germany has offered Greece the treatment of COVID-19 intensive care patients.

German military medical students support the makeshift hospital in Hannover – Photo by the Bundeswehr

Hungary: Hungary has delivered 100,000 masks and 5,000 protective suits each to Croatia, Slovenia, North Macedonia and Albania. They have also sent 200,000 masks and 10,000 protective suits each to Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Italy: 45,000 Defence Forces personnel have been involved in the fight against COVID-19 for the past 2 months, the Italian Air Force Task Force meantime set up a 92-bed healthcare area in Torino, ready to accommodate patients with COVID-19.  Furthermore, the Air Force continues to support domestic and foreign aircraft that transport medical materials to assist the areas affected by COVID-19. Soldiers also continue to sanitise streets throughout Italy.

Latvia: The government is providing Latvian manufacture disinfectants and medical material to Italy and Spain to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lithuania: The Lithuanian Government allocated 100,000 Euros for medical supplies as humanitarian assistance for Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine aimed at combatting COVID-19. Furthermore, humanitarian cargo carrying medical supplies, which Lithuania provided to Italy, departed. Finally, in a demonstration of EU and NATO Unity and solidarity, for the second time air cargo of medical relief arrived in Lithuania.

Luxembourg: 130 Soldiers worked to pack nearly one million masks for workers so they can reopen their businesses while following safety regulations. Meantime, the Luxembourg Military Band played two concerts in front of retirement homes.

Luxembourg soldiers pack nearly a million masks for workers so they can begin reopening businesses – Photo by Luxembourg Army

Montenegro: Montenegro offers to host, when possible, older citizens of Italy, in particular Lombardy, in their coastal institutions.

Netherlands: The Netherlands transported 7,000 kilos of personal protective equipment and medical supplies from Beijing to Pogorica, Montenegro, in support of Allied efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic through NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre. Meantime, Defence Forces donate 12,000 kg of food to a foundation in Amsterdam.

Norway: Testing is essential in the fight against COVID-19. Norway has announced 22.5 million NOK in support of testing kits. Meantime, a Norwegian team of doctors and nurses, deployed through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, are helping their Italian colleagues in the Bolognini hospital near Bergamo.

Poland: Polish doctors from military hospitals went to Slovenia to participate in medical training activities. Medical personnel exchanged knowledge and experience on methods and conditions in providing care for coronavirus patients. Meantime, nine military doctors departed Warsaw for Chicago, United States to assist their U.S. colleagues in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, Poland donated over 20,000 litres of disinfectant to Spain through NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre. Poland also sent 75,000 litres of disinfectants, 100,000 masks and essential medicines to NATO Ally, Belarus.                      


A medical mission from Warsaw’s Military Institute of Medicine departed for Chicago on April 23, 2020, in order to help with the daily fight against COVID-19, and to exchange lessons learned and best practices. – Photo by NATO HQ

Portugal: The Portuguese Military Laboratory is producing more than 3.5k litres a day of disinfectant gel for the National Health Service. Furthermore, 10 tons of personal protective equipment is being distributed throughout the country by the Defence Forces. Meantime, the Lisbon Naval Base is providing 357 beds for isolation and develops a prototype of a mechanical fan.

Romania: Romanian troops and personnel assist the organisation "The Charm of Life" in distributing over 600 packages of food in Rediu, Romania. NATO Allied nations continuously show their commitment to their communities through these acts of kindness and unity. Meantime, soldiers visit war veterans to deliver food and prevent the spread of the infection in the risk group while the Ministry of Defence installs the third medical facility in support of the civil population. Furthermore, 2 Romanian Air Force aircraft arrive with medical protection equipment from Turkey consisting of 300,000 protective masks purchased by the Romanian Government.

Slovakia: Slovakia sent 300,000 masks and 500 litres of disinfectant concentrate to Italy through NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre. Since the beginning of April, Slovakian Armed Forces have been training soldiers in sanitary tasks to help healthcare professionals. The first 40 of them have begun to perform their tasks in the Military Hospital.

Slovenia: Slovenia hosted Polish military doctors participating in medical training activities. Medical personnel exchanged knowledge and experience on methods and conditions in providing care for COVID-19 patients. Meantime the Slovenian Army is assisting police with soldiers, helicopters and unmanned aerial systems to control the country's southern border. Furthermore, Slovenia received 5 medical vehicles as part of the cooperation program with the U.S. Embassy.

Spain: Spain received its second batch of personal protective equipment acquired and delivered by NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA). The cargo arrived in Madrid on Monday, April 20, 2020 and included surgical masks, isolation gowns and thermometers. Over 1,200 kilos of medical supplies will be further distributed to Spanish troops deployed as part of the Spanish Operation “Balmis” in response to COVID-19. Army logisticians deliver food and mattresses to local Food Banks; military helps disinfect 5 hospitals, 6 health centers and 82 nursing homes. Furthermore, a Spanish Air Force A-400 moved medical supplies from Estonia to Zaragoza in response to requests to NATO managed through the Euro Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre.

Spanish soldiers have dedicated thousands of hours to activities to support the civilian population and the State Security Forces. - Photo by Ejercito Tierra

United Kingdom: RAF Odiham is supporting hospital workers by manufacturing and distributing supportive clips to ease discomfort caused by protective facemasks for hospital workers. A 3-D printer, ordinarily used for Service Modifications and Special Fits for the Chinook aircraft, is now running 24 hours per day, seven days per week producing clips. Furthermore, the United Kingdom donated protective suits to Montenegro. The suits will benefit their decontamination team, which is constantly on the ground in the fight against COVID-19

United States: USAID committed $50M to health security, civil society and the private sector while U.S. Forces are ready to provide additional transportation logistics, and U.S. material support to Italy. Meantime, the U.S. Army 5thQuartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company in Germany is producing 150 facemasks a day for soldiers performing high-risk jobs and U.S. Company 3M has donated 300,000 Euros in medical supplies to Italy.

The NATO-led Resolute Support mission (RSM) is supporting Afghan security forces as they work to mitigate risks against the spread of COVID-19. RSM facilitated the delivery of supplies to Afghan National Police units and Afghan Army units. Supplies included masks, gloves, personal protective equipment as well as disinfectants sanitisers and cleaning supplies.

The NATO Support and Procurement Agency allocated 600 kilos of protective equipment to the Norwegian Armed Forces fighting COVID-19.

NATO has tapped into its pool of defence scientists – the largest such network in the world - to support the COVID-19 emergency response. The NATO Chief Scientist, Dr Bryan Wells, has just launched the “NATO Chief Scientist Challenge”, calling for solutions in virus detection, improved situational awareness, decontamination, resilience and the post-COVID-19 future. The Challenge was sent out to over 6000 scientists in NATO’s network.

Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) was recently joined by German replenishment ship Berlin. It brings with it a unique capability on board to test people for COVID-19 using polymerase chain reaction method.

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.

Story by SHAPE Public Affairs Office

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