MONS, Belgium – As many Allied nations continue to gradually take measures to relax certain national restrictions, the overall fight against COVID-19 goes on. NATO and its Allied Nation’s armed forces remain committed to providing relief and support to national civil authorities, and to each other.
This is a global health crisis, and NATO is playing its part
NATO's military leaders met this week via secure teleconference for the Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session (MCCS) led by Chairman of the Military Committee (CMC), Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach to discuss a number of topics, including the fight against the global pandemic.
“This is a global health crisis, and NATO is playing its part,” Air Chief Marshal Peach said. “Allies are standing together and acting together in solidarity. Allied national armed forces, are supporting national civilian efforts and are playing a key role in slowing the pandemic.” Air Chief Marshal Peach thanked all medical staff, emergency services and our service personnel on behalf of the Military Committee, for the vital supporting role they are all playing and continue to play.
Opening remarks by Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach at the 183rd Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session on Thursday, May 14, 2020 at NATO HQ, Brussels - Photo by NATO HQ
Although NATO is not the first responder in a health crisis, the Alliance has delivered important support. Our Allies have demonstrated their resilience and adaptability, by using NATO mechanisms, skills, infrastructure and personnel coordinated between Allies. In coordination, for example, with Eurocontrol, a dedicated NATO call sign is now being used for military relief flights.
Military forces from across the Alliance flew more than 100 missions to transport medical personnel, supplies, and treatment capabilities as well as facilitated the construction of field hospitals adding tens of thousands of treatment beds.
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: Albanian Armed Forces physicians and nurses have been called to mobilise and assist national healthcare institutions in support of COVID-19 relief efforts.
Belgium: Belgian Defence Forces continue to use Field Accommodation Units, temporary deployable infrastructures, throughout the country to support various COVID-19 related relief efforts. The country’s leaders also announced their plan to continue to use its development cooperation and humanitarian aid to fight the pandemic in partner countries, specifically targeting support in the African continent.
Bulgaria: This week the Bulgarian government ended its state of emergency as a relaxation of COVID-19 related restrictions were put in place throughout the country.
Canada: Troops from the 1 Canadian Field Hospital, Detachment Halifax, arrived at Saint-Hubert Garrison in Montreal, Quebec via a CC-130-7 Hercules to assist with COVID-19 relief efforts. Troops from the Territorial Battle Group 1 arrived in Scarborough, Ontario to provide staffing relief for day-to-day operations for the Altamont Care Community. Medical staff from the 2 Field Ambulance Petawawa assisted long-term healthcare facilities in Quebec in collaboration with civilian medical staff. Canadian and French leaders discussed their close coordination and multilateral response to support COVID-19 relief efforts.
Troops from the 1 Canadian Field Hospital, Detachment Halifax, arrive at Saint-Hubert Garrison in Montreal, Quebec via a CC-130-7 Hercules to assist with COVID-19 relief efforts. - Photo by Canadian Armed Forces
Croatia: A donation of medical supplies and personal protective equipment from Croatia arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina in support of relief efforts. Eighty-six tons of protective equipment arrived in Zagreb, Croatia from China to support relief efforts. The country also began relaxing restrictions in a phased approach.
Czech Republic: The Czech government donated 8 million euros to support relief efforts specifically targeting African nations.
Denmark: Danish military police continue supporting NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan with COVID-19 relief efforts. The Danish government pledged 18 million US dollars to Ethiopia to support potential food insecurity due to COVID-19.
Estonia: Baltic nations Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia opened borders between one another on May 15 in efforts to relax COVID-19 restrictions.
France: Marine Firefighters from Marseille assisted COVID patients and developed innovative means to detect the virus and carry out decontamination operations as French military members continue to support civilian authorities with COVID-19 relief efforts. They recently repatriated French Polynesian residents from New Zealand and Tahiti. The French Ministry of the Armed Forces meantime created a crisis unit to ensure continuity of essential missions and safety of mobilised personnel during the COVID-19 crisis. French and Canadian leaders discussed their close coordination and multilateral response to support COVID-19 relief efforts as well as the importance of their bilateral relationship.
French military members continue to support civilian authorities with COVID-19 relief efforts. They recently repatriated Polynesian residents from New Zealand and Tahiti via an A400M aircraft.
Germany: German Marines from the Plön Naval Sergeant School deployed to provide support to nursing homes in Hamburg, Germany. German Armed Forces have also started a study researching contactless detection measures testing for COVID-19 related symptoms. German Soldiers continued supporting relief efforts by sewing masks; so far approximately 4,000 out of their 10,000-mask goal have been sewn while the Bundeswehr concluded 80 contracts (approximately 410 million Euros) for protective equipment and other items.
Greece: Greek leaders worked with the UK to repatriate asylum seekers to the UK despite bans on international flights. Greece received medical supplies from the NATO Support and Procurement Agency in efforts to combat COVID-19. Greek leaders joined the UN effort to support the human rights and dignity of the elderly and most affected by the crisis.
Iceland: Icelandic leaders joined the joint declaration for the Alliance for Multilateralism stressing the need for enhanced international cooperation and solidarity in efforts to overcome COVID-19.
Italy: Troops from NATO’s Rapid Deployable Corps Italy continue to provide support to the Lombardy region assisting in the local government’s response efforts. Furthermore, the Italian Navy share experiences on how to protect and contain contamination in military ships with the United States and United Kingdom.
From the beginning of the pandemic, Italian sanitisation teams have worked in various regions of Italy day and night to contain the spread of the virus.
Latvia: Baltic nations Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia opened borders between one another on May 15 in efforts to relax COVID-19 restrictions.
Lithuania: Baltic nations Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia opened borders between one another on May 15 in efforts to relax COVID-19 restrictions.
Luxembourg: The Luxembourg Army began distributing protective facial masks to cross-border workers setting up 12 sites throughout the nation.
Montenegro: The Montenegrin Armed Forces provided medical evacuation support for their communities, Allies and partners including Croatia and Serbia. They received an isolation chamber from Slovenia to assist with transport of COVID-19 patients.
Netherlands: As of May 11, the Netherlands began their phased approach to relaxing lockdown restrictions; primary schools reopened, along with libraries and some youth sports all with considerable measures to maintain social distancing. Meantime, the need for military support in the fight against COVID-19 has decreased in the Netherlands since May 1, 2020. Now there are around 200 military personnel working at civilian organisations battling COVID-19
North Macedonia: The government of North Macedonia adopted a three-phase plan to ease COVID-19 lockdown in the country, after each phase an assessment will be made on whether to proceed with relaxing restrictions.
Norway: Norwegian medical personnel continue supporting relief efforts in the Bergamo, Italy to help share the medical load of caring for COVID-19 patients.
Poland: Poland’s Ministry of National Defence and the NATO supported Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) arranged for the transport of personal protective equipment to city of Wrocław, Poland. Fifty-six tons of equipment arrived via a Ukrainian AN-124 in the country to aide COVID-19 relief efforts. U.S. Army Soldiers also joined Operation Resilience Spring alongside their Polish Territorial Defence colleagues to support local communities. Elsewhere the next rotation of Polish troops arrived in Kosovo and together with Allies they keep working to ensure a safe and secure environment in Kosovo and help local communities contain the spread of COVID-19.
Portugal: The Portuguese Navy, Army and Air Force distributed more than 5 million personal protective equipment and 17,000 liters of disinfectant gel to 537 schools across the country to support the Portuguese Ministry of Education. Portugal announced a contribution of 10 million euros to support the Global Response relief efforts in support of finding a cure for coronavirus.
Romania: Romanian Soldiers from the 1st CIMIC Battalion continued their humanitarian assistance mission and distribute food packages to veterans and war widows in the counties of Arad, Brasov, Hunedoara, Mures and Timis. Meantime, the Military Police and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Troops perform specific missions together with the other forces of the Romanian Army, contributing to limiting the spread of the Coronavirus.
Romanian Soldiers from the 1st CIMIC Battalion salute an elderly man while continuing their humanitarian assistance mission distributing food packages to veterans and war widows in the counties of Arad, Brasov, Hunedoara, Mures and Timis.
Slovakia: Slovak Armed Forces supported multiple repatriation flight to and from NATO partner nation Ireland via a C27J Spartan in efforts to get citizens home during the pandemic. The nation also was involved with testing of the Q-Vent ventilator solution, an asset in development to fight COVID-19.
Slovenia: The Slovenian government announced major relaxations to quarantine restrictions beginning May 18 including opening of facilities with 30 rooms or less, some schools will reopen while majority of sports activities will be allowed to resume by May 23. Furthermore, Slovenia provided an isolation chamber to Montenegro to assist with transport of COVID-19 patients.
Spain: Spanish Operation Balmis continues with 867 military and 2,995 healthcare personnel deployed in 23 towns throughout the country assisting in local efforts to disinfect hospitals and residential care centres. Spanish Marines also made more than 60 blood donations in the Canaries.
The Turkish government donated 15,000 facemasks, 250 face shields, 250 eye protectors, 200 medical coverall and 150 litres of disinfectant to NATO's Allied Land Command headquarters in Izmir. Furthermore, a Turkish military plane delivered medical supplies to North Macedonia and Albania in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. Turkey remains the world’s third largest humanitarian aid provider since the outbreak. Turkish Soldiers continue to deliver food and supplies to citizens in need and veterans aged over 65. Finally, President Erdogan discussed steps to be taken in the post-epidemic period and the fight against COVID-19 and regional issues, especially in Syria and Libya, with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
United Kingdom: The British Army began a phased restart of national training facilities. In efforts to relax quarantine, starting May 13 the British government allowed citizens to exercise outdoors and meet one person outside of your household while respecting 2 metres social distancing measures. Members of the Welsh Guards worked alongside Boots UK to provide COVID-19 testing at a regional medical centre; the site can process approximately 200 tests per day in support of the National Health Services. As part of a Department of Health and Social care initiative a mobile testing unit was setup and manned by British Soldiers at Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester, UK to test individuals for COVID-19.
British Soldiers support a mobile testing unit outside of Old Trafford stadium in Manchester, England in support of National Health Service COVID-19 testing efforts. - Photo courtesy of Manchester United
United States: NATO’s Rapid Air Mobility (RAM) initiative facilitated the delivery of essential equipment between the United States and Italy, in support of COVID-19 relief efforts, May 13, 2020. The latest RAM-flight, executed by a United States Air Force Super Hercules C-130J from the U.S. 86th Airlift Wing, out of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, directly supported the distribution of critical medical supplies for the Italian National Disaster Management Agency (Protezione Civile). The aircraft made deliveries of KN95 surgical masks, surgical gowns and COVID test kits to Milan and Rome. US Army Soldiers also joined Operation Resilience Spring alongside their Polish Territorial Defence colleagues to support local communities.
The NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) is working hard to meet the demands of Allied Nations and Partners in assisting in the fight against COVID-19. A chartered flight arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday, May 9, 2020 carrying nearly 60 tons of soldiers’ gear, IT equipment and medical supplies, to support the sustainment of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).
NSPA also procured more than 18 tons of protective medical equipment for Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Romania and Greece as part of its efforts to help contain the spread of the virus. The supplies were airlifted, by Cargolux, from Shanghai to Luxembourg and from there onwards to its final destinations. The shipment was organised into two flights. The first one arrived at Findel Airport on May 6, 2020, carrying protective medical equipment for Italy, France and Belgium. A second shipment arrived on Sunday, May 10, 2020, with more than eleven tons of medical supplies for Spain, Romania, Greece and Belgium, as a continuation of the first shipment.
Furthermore, another AN-124 aircraft arrived at Wroclaw airport, Poland, on May 11th, 2020 carrying about 56 tons of face shields and gowns as part of efforts to combat COVID-19. This is the third mission tasked by the Polish Ministry of Defence to the Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS). In total, Poland has airlifted about 170 tons of medical supplies.
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.