MONS, Belgium – As many Allied nations gradually take measures to relax certain national restrictions, the overall fight against COVID-19 goes on. The recently installed NATO COVID-19 Task Force continues to coordinate military support to ensure Allies use military resources most effectively.
We've seen terrific cooperation
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've seen terrific cooperation from a national perspective of the nations in Europe to be able to accommodate military members for support,” said Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod D. Wolters. “The health of our forces is vitally important to maintaining readiness to deter and defend our homelands.”
Potential adversaries should know that our forces remain ready
NATO continues to deliver credible deterrence and defence. “Our nations, allies, partners, and potential adversaries should know that our forces remain ready. NATO is steadfast in its commitment to protect all Allies and our shared values,” stressed General Wolters.
This week, there have been many examples that display unity throughout the Alliance. Here are some highlights of what many Allied nations’ armed forces are doing to support relief efforts:
Albania: As of May 4, the Albanian government began a phased plan to reopen their economy first with an easing of movement restrictions and allowing taxi services to operate with some minor restrictions.
Belgium: Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes announced Belgium pledges 27 million euros to Global Response, with 5 million euros directly placed to support COVID-19 vaccine efforts. The Belgian government coordinated multiple flights to support the repatriation of Belgian nationals from Morocco. The nation also supported relief efforts by providing meals to India, feeding more than 1000 people. The Belgian Consulate in New York City surprised healthcare workers around the city with 200 boxes of Belgian waffles.
Bulgaria: Bulgarian Health Minister Kiril Ananiev announced that intercity travel restrictions ended at midnight on May 5, open air restaurants and coffee shops are also allowed to reopen with required distancing measures taken between patrons.
Canada: Canadian Armed Forces members are deployed in response to provincial Requests for Assistance at Long-Term Care Facilities where they are maintaining staffing levels, helping with infection control and prevention, providing assistance with the day-to-day operations, helping with the coordination of medical care and general support. The Canadian Rangers are supporting Northern communities in numerous capacities including providing Personal Protective Equipment and preparing triage points, providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations, assisting in staffing command posts and emergency centres, gathering data and statistics on COVID-19 relief efforts, supporting community food security, assisting community elders by cutting and delivering firewood, hauling and refilling water, and delivering medications and groceries. Furthermore, the Canadian Government has announced investments of over $850 million (CAD) that support the fight against COVID-19.
Czech Republic: The Czech Republic pledged donations to Global Response to support COVID-19 relief efforts. The government also announced that foreign nationals are permitted to remain in the country until the end of the nation’s state of emergency scheduled for July 17, 2020. Meantime, military personnel are not only manning entrances to hospitals and screening incoming people they are also cooking food, carrying out disinfections and cleaning. 40 Chrudim paratroopers have also donated blood to the Pardubice regional hospital as planned surgeries resume.
Denmark: The country pledged 50 million euros in support of developing COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines, Furthermore, with the support of partner nation Sweden, Denmark was able to repatriate several Danish nationals from Chile.
Estonia: Despite COVID-19, Estonian Armed Forces continued with a modified version of the nation’s largest multinational Exercise Spring Storm, taking necessary safety measures for troops while continuing mission readiness. The nation also shipped 2,000 food rations to the EU training mission in Mali.
France: The Ministry of Defence is using 1 million Euros to finance the development of a COVID-19 blood test kit designed in France. Army medical personnel meantime are providing around 1000 online consultations a day for the military, their families, and Ministry of Defence employees. 55 logistical operations delivering medical supplies were also carried out. Furthermore, the Directorate General of Armaments test masks to be provided to citizens while the Defence Innovation Agency calls for innovative solutions.
Germany: The Bundeswehr is producing disinfectants for use in laboratories while soldiers are supporting the storage and distribution of disinfectants, masks, protective suits and gloves. Military personnel have also donated blood. Furthermore, the military band is giving concerts to elderly residents isolated in residential care centres. From March to April, Luftwaffe flew 50 percent of all medical evacuation flights operated by the European Air Transport Command (EATC).
German military personnel donate blood during the COVID-19 pandemic
Greece: Greece began a phased approach to gradually relax lockdown measures. The Greek government pledged 3 million euros to the Global Response efforts in support of COVID-19 research and cures.
Italy: Two Italian Army doctors joined EUFOR to help Bosnia-Herzegovina's fight against COVID-19. The Air Force were involved in repatriation efforts from Equatorial Guinea while the 46th Air Brigade transported over 10,000 units of medical supplies. Navy medical experts share techniques in high bio-containment with doctors in Catania while a disinfection team worked at a COVID-19 hospital keeping it safe and sanitised for patients. Army specialists meantime support Italy’s railway as it increases rail traffic as a part of de-confinement. Furthermore, as part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security program Italy will lead efforts, alongside Switzerland, in the development of new diagnostic kits and skills to combat COVID-19.
Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania: Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian leaders met this week and agreed to open borders between the Baltic nations starting May 15 as they each push to relieve protective measures from COVID-19. Like many nations, Latvia also pledged 5 million euros to the Global Response initiative.
Luxembourg: Volunteers worked together to supply meals to healthcare workers and elderly people affected by COVID-19. Luxembourg also helped coordinate repatriation flights for nationals’ abroad.
Montenegro: Medical supplies donated by different businesses arrive in Podgorica. Meantime, Montenegrin troops continued efforts to sanitise and disinfect local healthcare facilities in response to COVID-19 relief efforts.
Netherlands: 210 military medical personnel of the Armed Forces are working in hospitals across the Netherlands to battle COVID-19.
North Macedonia: North Macedonia’s leaders began a phased approach to relax COVID-19 restrictions with adjusted curfew times, limited social gathering and compulsory face protection in public areas.
Norway: Norwegian leaders pledged more than 1 billion USD to various organisations in support of the global efforts to create a vaccine for COVID-19.
Poland: Polish Armed Forces donated more than 1,700 litres of blood in addition to logistics, decontamination, and manpower. Polish Soldiers from various units meantime supported the province of Mazowieckie by forming mobile teams to collect COVID-19 test swabs from personnel in isolation. Overall 8.8k personnel and 1.5k pieces of equipment are currently in use in the fight against COVID-19.
Polish Soldiers disinfect gear while setting up a new mobile testing site to assist in national efforts to combat COVID-19 - Photo by Polish Department of Defence
Portugal: Portuguese military personnel delivered several computers to families in Porto Santo so the children can attend classes online. The Air Force, meantime, created land transport cells to transport support material to the National Health Service.
Romania: The Romanian Air Force transported 90,000 FFP type 2 masks to Spain and 20 vehicles with protective materials and equipment was transported to Moldova. Meantime, The Romanian Military Technical Academy collaborated with BlueSpace Technology to develop and field a mechanical ventilator to support COVID-19 efforts in Romanian hospitals while soldiers distribute over 300 packages with good products to war veterans and widows.
The Romanian military, combined with BlueSpace Technology, display a recently developed field mechanical ventilator.- Photo by the Romanian Department of Defence
Slovakia: An alternative volume-regulated portable lung ventilator Q-vent, constructed by young Slovak scientists, is being mass-produced. The Slovak Armed Forces meantime helped with repatriation flights from Lebanon and Cyprus.
Slovenia: Slovenian Armed Forces helicopter crews provide emergency medical assistance. Meantime, businesses begin to reopen in Slovenia and schools are planned to reopen on May 18. The nation has also committed over 13 million dollars to global vaccine efforts.
Spain: The Spanish Army tested their new robot Atila used as a mobile system to sanitise health facilities. Military Emergency Squad train personnel from the fire brigades and health centres in the provinces of Granada, Valencia, Castellón and Las Palmas on disinfection efforts. The Spanish Navy carried out the disinfection and removal of beds in the temporary shelter for disadvantaged people installed in ELCANO. Furthermore they performed patrolling tasks, logistical support, disinfection of residences and transportation of medical supplies. 1,111 soldiers and 3,125 members of Defence health centres and hospitals work in 34 towns and cities in an effort to contain the pandemic.
Spanish Soldiers test their new robot, Atila, used as a mobile system to sanitize health facilities. - Photo by the Spanish Ministry of Defence
Turkey: Turkish Armed Forces deliver medical aid supplies to Somalia, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United States. Meantime, national efforts continue to combat COVID-19 as contact tracing measures are successfully deployed.
United Kingdom: The U.K. worked with the Georgian Ministry of Defence to source and purchase protective personal equipment including gloves, masks and disinfectants to be distributed in Georgia. The request for assistance was via the NATO Disaster Relief Coordination Centre (EADRCC). Meantime, U.K. military personnel, using their Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear skills, are ensuring the safety of National Health Service (NHS) personnel by making sure that staff has properly fitting personal protection equipment. The U.K. is also supporting the U.N. They have discussed the need for a coordinated global response to reinforce the most vulnerable countries, accelerating the search for a vaccine and bringing countries together in the fight against COVID-19. Furthermore, the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force are using 3d printers to produce 10,000 face visors.
The United States delivers critical financial aid to Afghanistan, Colombia and Mongolia in response to COVID-19. In conjunction with NATO, the U.S. also delivered supplies and disinfection equipment to the Bosnia and Herzegovina Armed Forces and health centres in East Mostar, West Mostar and Nevesinje. Furthermore, U.S. troops stationed in Germany held a ‘Christmas in May’ toy drive in Ansbach. Due to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions the troops distributed toys to various orphanages to provide some joy and support for children. Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany distributed medical supplies including hand sewn protective masks to the Red Cross in Bitburg.
The U.S. and NATO delivered supplies and disinfection equipment to the BiH Armed Forces and health centres in East Mostar, West Mostar and Nevesinje
NATO is launching a practical scientific project to develop new tools for a rapid and accurate diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 infection. This 24-month initiative aims to enhance the speed and efficiency of COVID-19 diagnosis through a multidisciplinary approach, by bringing together experts in the field of immunology, virology and molecular biology.
The NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) offers Strategic Aeromedical Evacuation Services (STRAT AE) to NATO nations, partners and other NATO bodies or nations in support to Allied operations. This is a proactive response to the needs of Allies and partner nations during this difficult time.
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.