Eddie Mair 4pm - 7pm
Coronavirus: Up to 20,000 troops on standby to deal with infection
18 March 2020, 23:39
Up to 20,000 troops are on standby to try and deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Army reserves are to be on notice from Thursday to mobilise in case the government calls on them to support the Coronavirus outbreak.
Commanders are being told to get ready to isolate personnel on security missions to ensure they are not sick and are able to respond.
All holiday leave has been cancelled for overseas troops.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "The men and women of our armed forces stand ready to protect Britain and her citizens from all threats, including COVID-19."
"The unique flexibility and dedication of the services means that we are able to provide assistance across the whole of society in this time of need.
"From me downwards the entirety of the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces are dedicated to getting the nation through this global pandemic."
Up to 150 service personnel will start to be trained up to drive oxygen tankers to support the NHS if required.
Up to 10,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Royal Marines will be put on a higher readiness to mobilise on top of the similarly sized force that already operates on standby in the UK.
Reservists could also be required to take on engineer and technician roles.
Hotels may be converted into make-shift medical facilities or military barracks.
"Putting more personnel at a higher state of readiness and having our reserves on standby gives us greater flexibility to support public services as and when they require our assistance," said Major General Charlie Stickland, Assistance Chief of the Defence Staff Operations and Commitments.
"Our servicemen and women are committed to maintain our operational output and delivering any support the government requires."