MONS, Belgium – In Europe, Allied nations continue to gradually take measures relaxing certain national restrictions, as the growth of coronavirus infections slows. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia for instance are opening their borders to each other, in a number of other countries, such as Luxembourg, Spain and the Netherlands, public life is restarting to some extent while others, with the holiday season coming up, are making arrangements to allow travel from other nations possible.
In light of warnings from the World Health Organisation (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.
"It demonstrates our continued determination to invest in and use our Allies' unique capabilities to directly address the challenges to health care and distribution systems impacted by COVID-19," said Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod D. Wolters during a virtual global forum on security issues on May 14, 2020.
We must leverage and support a whole-of-Alliance, whole-of-partner, and whole-of-society approach
This week General Wolters hosted an Allied Command Operations (ACO) Commander's Conference via videoconference where the efforts of ACO Commanders responding to COVID-19 were praised by NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg. 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 Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg, centre, speaks during the Allied Command Operations video teleconference May 28, 2020, a regularly scheduled meeting that Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod D. Wolters, holds with select military commanders from across NATO.
The complex discussions and decisions 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.
"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," added General Wolters.
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 officials announced that kindergartens and nurseries are scheduled to reopen on June 1 with a strong emphasis on the enforcement of safety and security protocols being upheld. Security measures are still in place banning large gatherings but a phased approach to relax some measures is being followed.
Belgium: Five hundred and eighty-five Belgian military candidates and students returned to training at the Saffraanberg military training campus as COVID-19 restrictions are gradually lifted. Belgian troops continue to provide support across the nation in retirement and nursing homes.
Bulgaria: Bulgaria donated protective equipment to Allies Montenegro, Albania and North Macedonia in efforts to support COVID-19 relief.
A Bulgarian service member stands by boxes of medical supplies as the Allied nation made a donation to fellow Ally the Republic of North Macedonia in an effort to support COVID-19 relief efforts.
Canada: Canadian Armed Forces Operation LASER continues with troops deployed across Canada to support staff shortages in senior residences during the pandemic. Troops assigned to the 5th Battalion of Valcartier are also contributing to relief efforts by sewing protective masks, currently more than 10,000 masks have been sewn.
Croatia: Croatian officials continued relaxing protective measures as the nation now allows for tourist travel as well as some border openings.
Czech Republic: Czech leaders continue relaxations of COVID-19 measures with borders reopening. Some precautions are still in place at crossing borders with certain higher risk nations possibly subject to quarantine and a need to test negative for the virus.
Denmark: Danish military police based in Afghanistan assisted in and received COVID-19 testing, all tests reported negative allowing their mission in support of Resolute Support Mission to continue.
Estonia: Nearly two thousand food rations arrived in Mali in support of a potential second wave of COVID-19. The rations allow those involved in the European Union Training Mission in Mali to remain ready and prepared amidst the pandemic.
France: The French government in conjunction with national lawmakers approved the use of a COVID-19 contact tracing mobile app that will launch this weekend. French Army training facilities resumed activities while taking necessary safety measures.
Germany: The Bundeswehr's Education Centre is supporting at-home learning by providing online classes. NATO-supported Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) flights continued in support of relief efforts while military drivers continued their support in delivering COVID-19 relief supplies throughout the nation. Soldiers from various regiments continued providing assistance to national healthcare centres as well as supporting elderly homes.
Greece: Greece entered the fourth phase of its COVID-19 lockdown relaxation of restrictions where ferry services resumed, cafes and restaurants were allowed to reopen. All services reopening are enforced to carry out safety measures including social distancing as well as temperature checks.
Hungary: Hungary continued its phased approach to reopening their economy while following regulations and preventative measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Iceland: Iceland downgraded its state of emergency to an 'alert phase' and has begun reopening night clubs and gyms amongst other businesses as the nation's economy looks to completely recover from COVID-19 lockdown precautions.
Italy: Specially trained teams assigned to NATO's Rapid Deployable Corps Italy and from the 1st Signal Regiment Milano are supporting national efforts in the Lombardia region by disinfecting buildings.
Troops assigned to NATO's Rapid Deployable Corps Italy sanitize rooms at a healthcare facility in support of COVID-19 relief efforts in the Lombardia region of Italy.
Latvia: The Latvian Army supplied over 25,000 litres of sanitiser, 5,000 litres of disinfectant, 130,000 respirators and 36,000 masks to state and local government institutions as well as the nation's Red Cross in efforts to combat COVID-19.
Lithuania: Following a request to NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) Lithuania joined several Allies and partners in providing support to the Republic of Moldova.
Luxembourg: Several restaurants around the country have been granted their request to reopen after following the governments mandates for installing protective measures.
Montenegro: Montenegrin officials stated the country plans to open borders on June 1, 2020. The countries with which it will open its borders are Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Albania, and Greece.
Netherlands: NATO's Movements Coordination Centre Europe based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands delivered critical assistance to Allies Montenegro and the Republic of North Macedonia.
North Macedonia: Service members throughout the country continued efforts to combat COVID-19 by donating blood.
Poland: Poland provided support by delivering supplies to NATO's newest Allied nation the Republic of North Macedonia. Poland dispatched nearly 70 tonnes of medical supplies to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia this week, helping them respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This aid includes more than 10,000 litres of disinfectant and 100,000 face masks for each recipient. Furthermore Polish troops continue to support national efforts by disinfecting healthcare facilities.
Boxes of medical supplies arrive in NATO's newest Allied nation the Republic of North Macedonia as fellow Ally Poland donated to the nation in efforts to support the battle against COVID-19.
Portugal: Portuguese Armed Forces Hospital continued to treat COVID-19 patients. Service members and civilians donated blood to support COVID-19 relief efforts. Fifteen teachers from Portugal will support Luxembourgish teaching staff at primary schools until the end of the nation's school year. Portuguese Ministry of Defence sent rations to support the EU's Training Mission in Mali.
Romania: Romania sent five nurses and five Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear specialists to the United States to support COVID-19 treatment and relief efforts as well as sharing best practices. Following a request to NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) Romania joined several Allies and partners in providing support to the Republic of Moldova.
Slovakia: Following a request to NATO's Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC) Slovakia joined several Allies and partners in providing support to the Republic of Moldova.
Spain: Many NATO and Allied Command Operations headquarters across the Alliance showed their support of and solidarity with Spain by lowering the Spanish flag to half-mast during a ten-day period of mourning for lives lost during the pandemic. Spanish troops continued efforts with Operation Balmis, disinfecting healthcare facilities and local heritage sites.
Turkey: Turkish government provided medical supplies to Chad in efforts to support the African nation's COVID-19 battle.
United Kingdom: More than 29,000 test kits were delivered to 191 facilities by the U.K.'s COVID Support Force in efforts to increase testing capabilities around the U.K. Members of the British Army's Yorkshire Regiment supported local communities by setting up a mobile testing unit. British Force's Reservist components were activated to assist in COVID-19 relief efforts. The British government plans to launch its coronavirus "test and trace" service across England this week, a key pillar in its strategy to ease a nationwide lockdown introduced in March. The service aims to allow anyone with virus symptoms to be tested, and those who have been in close contact with someone showing positive results to be traced and told to isolate for 14 days.
United States: The U.S. Mission to Bulgaria donated 900 COVID-19 tests to Bulgaria in support of testing efforts. The U.S. Military along with NATO donated dozens of thermometers, hundreds of face shield visors, five thousand masks, hundreds of protective goggles and suits, hundreds of blankets, pillows and bed linen sets and hundreds of litres of disinfectant to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Meantime, the NATO-supported Strategic Airlift International Solution (SALIS) has airlifted more than 300 tonnes of vital supplies needed during the COVID-19 pandemic to Germany over the past two months. Germany has carried out six missions since the beginning of the crisis using SALIS capabilities, with the most recent deliveries on 30 April, 13 May, 15 May and 16 May 2020. Nine NATO Allies – Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – participate in the SALIS programme. It provides participating countries with rapid access to heavy transport aircraft, which has aided their efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19. The programme has delivered over 1,000 tonnes of medical supplies to NATO Allies, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
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.
Find more information on the NATO Support and Procurement Agency's role in responding to the COVID-19 crisis here.
Find NATO's latest COVID-19 Factsheet here.