MONS, Belgium – As many Allied nations continue to gradually take measures relaxing certain national restrictions, the overall fight against COVID-19 continues. Allies remain committed to providing relief and support to national civil authorities, and to each other.
Forces from across the Alliance are playing a vital role
“Every nation in the Alliance has responded to the crisis, demonstrating the solidarity and commitment to one another, central to NATO’s success for more than 70 years,” said Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod D. Wolters during a virtual global forum on security issues on May 14, 2020. “Forces from across the Alliance are playing a vital role providing direct and indirect support of these efforts to save precious lives. Unity and resilience characterise our response within Allied Command Operations,” added General Wolters stressing that the Alliance remains vigilant to our collective deterrence and defence, with a sharp focus on sustaining the well-being of each of our nations.
At the moment, forces from across the Alliance have deployed in their homelands to strengthen civil responses by providing planners and constructing alternate care facilities. They assist with the decontamination of affected areas and deliver critical resources to vital points of need. Between Allies, forces from across the Alliance are employing military transport capabilities to move medical personnel, equipment, supplies, and treatment capabilities to areas under greater stress. Military capabilities are also being used to transfer patients to treatment facilities less impacted by the pandemic. NATO’s goal continues to be to facilitate these activities and add value without disrupting national response efforts.
The NATO Alliance is more than robust – it is anti-fragile
Allies maintain unique capabilities to directly address the challenge to healthcare and distribution systems impacted by COVID-19. “We must leverage and support a whole-of-Alliance, whole-of-partner, and whole-of-society approach to assist regions in most need, alleviate the effects of COVID-19, and strengthen our posture to respond to future pandemics,” said General Wolters. “The NATO Alliance is more than robust - it is anti-fragile. Times of adversity strengthen our resilience and resolve. NATO will be stronger and more unified on the other side of this health crisis.”
Although NATO is typically not the first responder in a health crisis, the Alliance has delivered. 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. Earlier this week, the tenth of these RAM (Rapid Air Mobility) flights brought medical supplies into Italy. Contingency arrangements remain in place for the coordination of similar requests and flights for the immediate future.
Overall, military forces from across the Alliance flew more than 100 missions thus far to transport medical personnel, supplies, and treatment capabilities as well as facilitated the construction of field hospitals adding tens of thousands of treatment beds.
NATO Allies have also agreed to support the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) that issued a global call, related to the ongoing global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Appropriate military and civil defence assets are requested to be made available for the transport of urgently needed humanitarian and medical items. For this, the NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) responded to UN OCHA on May 15, indicating the Alliance’s decision to support the request.
The Alliance’s exact assistance will be determined based on close coordination between UN OCHA, the EADRCC and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), as well as on availability of airlift assets from Allies and partners.
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 are doing in support of countering the pandemic:
Albania: Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama said that as of Monday May 18, 2020, the country is lifting most measures imposed more than two months ago to limit the spread of the coronavirus, local media reported. Open-air cafes and restaurants, as well as museums, cultural centers and archaeological sites are allowed to open, provided that social distancing and hygiene rules are followed, local daily Tirana Times quoted the prime minister.
Belgium: Belgian citizens were repatriated in a series of flights throughout the week to get them home from abroad.
Bulgaria: Bulgaria has agreed with neighbouring Greece and Serbia to ease some travel restrictions starting June 1. The country is also holding talks with Austria and Germany to continue relaxing travel restrictions. The nation also donated protective suits, masks and visors to the Republic of North Macedonia Army Military Medical Centre and to the Infectious Disease Clinic.
Bulgarian officials present representatives from the Republic of North Macedonia with a donation of protective suits, masks and visors in an effort to support COVID-19 relief
Canada: More than 1,400 Canadian Armed Forces troops are supporting 25 long-term care facilities throughout Quebec, providing logistical and sanitation support of COVID-19 relief efforts. The ban for all non-essential travel across the Canada-United States border has been extended by an additional 30 days, the Canadian government stated that the extension was an important decision that would keep people in both countries safe.
Denmark: Denmark is offering all adults the chance to be tested for the coronavirus, including those who have no symptoms. Furthermore, the country eased a number of restrictions including the opening of cafes, bars and restaurants.
Estonia: Estonia provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Georgia, Montenegro and North Macedonia to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. The shipment was made up of disinfectant and goods produced locally in Estonia.
Estonia provided humanitarian aid of disinfectant and goods produced in Estonia to Ukraine, Georgia, Montenegro and North Macedonia
France: As part of Operation Resilience, 2 French Army Regiments delivered protective masks to local municipalities in support of COVID-19 relief efforts.
Germany: German Soldiers continued their efforts in support COVID-19 relief by donating blood. Soldiers from the medical training regiment supported the district of Miesbach, Germany ensuring medical care in a senior residence while assisting the Bavarian Red Cross in Tirschenreuth.
Greece: The Hellenic Police forces received a donation of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment from the U.S. Embassy located in Athens.
Italian troops assigned to the NATO-led KFOR mission are assisting local authorities and providing support to families in need in the North of Kosovo during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meantime, NATO Rapid Deployable Corps (NRDC) Italy is acting as a distribution hub for the north of Italy as it is strategically close to Milan Airport. They are ensuring personal protection equipment is delivered to where it is needed most.
Latvia: The Latvian Defence Ministry signed a contract for the purchase of 10,800 respirators, and 248,000 medical masks, 42,280 hand disinfectants and 31,690 disinfectant packaging packages. Meanwhile 163,000 respirators were delivered to state and municipal institutions as the nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic. Latvia also delivered more than 11 tons of disinfectant to Italy and San Marino.
Latvian soldier preparing medical supplies destined to go to Italy and San Marino
Lithuania: Lithuania donated 5,000 masks to Spain, the second of such efforts made by the Baltic nation. A C-27 Spartan plane arrived in Zaragoza, Spain carrying pallets of masks in support of COVID-19 relief efforts.
Luxembourg: The Luxembourgian Army continues to distribute protective masks to workers crossing borders.
Montenegro: Members of the Montenegrin Army and Ministry of Defence donated blood in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. In total 130 personnel donated.
Netherlands: The Netherlands conducted a second relief flight carrying supplies to Montenegro. A Dutch cargo plane carrying personal protective equipment including masks, gloves, clothing, test kits and ventilators arrived in Podgorica. The efforts come as a result of Montenegro’s requested assistance through EARDCC.
North Macedonia: Military and civilian personnel from the Ministry of Defence donated blood this week in an effort to support COVID-19 relief.
Norway: The Norwegian Prime Minister has announced a timetable for lifting coronavirus restrictions however travel restrictions remain in place. Prime Minister Erna Solberg anticipates much of everyday life will return to normal mid-June.
Poland: On May 18, 2020 personal protective equipment arrived in Wroclaw, Poland. The Ministry of National Defence and Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) arranged the flight. Furthermore, almost 9,000 soldiers and Polish Army staff as well as 1,800 equipment units continue efforts in the fight against COVID-19 including soldiers from the 6th Chemical Battalion who are disinfecting aircraft. Furthermore, the Polish military contingent operating with the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) has distributed sanitary and personal protection equipment to the Health Institutions in Kosovo, as part of NATO Allies’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This delivery represented a donation from the office of the President of the Republic of Poland.
A Polish soldier offloading medical equipment which arrived in Wroclaw on May 18, 2020 part of a flight arranged by the Polish Ministry of Defence and Strategic Airlift International Solution
Portugal: The crew of Portuguese Squadron 502 “Elefantes”, deployed at Air Base No. 4, Lajes, Portugal transported four patients from Terceira Island to Ponta Delgada, Azores.
Romania: Through the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), Romania received 200 tonnes of medical materials and equipment in support of COVID-19 relief efforts.
Slovakia: Slovak Aid helped hospitals in Serbia and Montenegro in the fight against COVID-19. The last of four flights, by the Slovak Air Force and Government Flying Service, from Ireland to Slovakia occurred on May 19th, repatriating 170 people. Furthermore, Slovak scientists have developed their own COVID-19 tests, which are ready to help not only Slovakia but also other countries.
Spain: Operation Balmis continues with 738 military personnel deployed in 33 localities throughout Spain supporting the efforts of healthcare personnel in efforts to carry out disinfection tasks and support of security forces. Troops came together to support local food banks in Badajoz, Spain donating more than 2.5 tonnes of food. The Spanish Navy delivered personal protection equipment to a hospital in Cádiz, Spain.
Spanish troops provide sanitation and disinfection support to local facilities across the country in an effort to combat COVID-19
Turkey: Turkish defence officials donated protective health supplies to Soldiers stationed at NATO’s Allied Land Command based in Izmir in support of COVID-19 relief efforts. Supplies were distributed to 320 Allied staff from 23 NATO nations. As of May 14, Turkey supplied aid to over 80 countries to combat COVID-19.
United Kingdom: A Royal Air Force flight delivered Foreign Office-sourced supplies to the Turks and Caicos Islands including six ventilators, blood and medication to support the islands’ health care systems during the coronavirus pandemic. This flight is part of the wider support being offered by the UK Government to its Overseas Territories in order to maintain access to essential goods including food, fuel and medical supplies. At home, Royal Air Force personnel volunteer at a food bank in Newquay, which has been hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic. Meantime, Officer Cadets from the Royal Navy university units have put their studies on hold to assist patients at a Liverpool residential care home and Manchester’s Nightingale Hospital in an effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
United States: United States European Command in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy in Riga donated hand and surface sanitisers to the Latvian Emergency Medical Service. In total 3,660 litres of hand and surface sanitisers were donated in efforts to combat COVID-19. U.S. Air Force Europe provided a C-130J Super Hercules from Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany to aid the transport of medical and other relief supplies between hubs in Milan and Rome, Italy to support COVID-19 relief efforts. The air mobility support will assist Italy with redistributing more than 15,000 kg of relief supplies including masks, surgical gowns, and test kits. NATO’s Joint Force Command Naples’ International Club held a COVID-19 Charity Food Drive collecting and donating almost 2 tonnes of food, hygiene and baby products for the local Campania region.
As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, NATO is constantly assessing and adapting. In order to respond, we continue to stand united, 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 readiness.
Allies remain committed to their contributions to NATO including our contributions to the Multinational Battlegroups 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.