Covid-19 will cause ‘severe consequences’ for members: NATO
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that Covid-19 will cause ‘severe consequences’ for member states economies and defence budgets.
Speaking during the release of NATO’s Annual Report, Stoltenberg said: “It is clear that there will be severe economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. And at least in the short term, there will also be severe consequences, not only for the total economy, but also for government budgets.
“When we speak about the long-term consequences, that is too early to say anything with certainty about what the long-term consequences will be.”
Despite this, Stoltenberg said that in the face of an uncertain world, he expected member states would continue to invest more in defence and security spending, adding that he expected countries to ‘stay committed’ to their current defence spending targets.
Stoltenberg explained: “We have to remember that when NATO Allies decided to invest more in defence, they did so because we live in a more uncertain, more unpredictable world, and therefore we need to invest more in defence. This has not changed. So, I expect Allies to stay committed to investing more in our security.”
Stoltenberg added that investments in security often paid off in crisis situations citing how Armed Forces provide ‘surge capacity for all our societies’ when it comes to responding to natural disasters and other crisis.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread a number of NATO member countries have called upon their armed forces to support civilian authorities, provide medical assistance and logistics capabilities.
Yesterday, the UK’s Ministry of Defence announced that it was readying an additional 10,000 personnel for its ‘COVID support force’ and will begin training 100 personnel to drive oxygen tankers to support the NHS next week.
In his speech, unveiling the report, Stoltenberg said that the Covid-19 pandemic faced NATO with ‘an unprecedented crisis’ but that NATO had ‘overcome crises before’. Stoltenberg’s conference on the report was held online for the first time due to social distancing measures, NATO this week also suspended media access to its HQ in Brussels.
In response to the Pandemic, NATO has also looked to modify a number of exercises, but Stoltenberg said this did not affect the organisation’s ability to act if needed.
The US has already made modifications to exercise Defender Europe that would have seen 20,000 troops deployed to Europe.
UK readies 10,000 extra personnel for Covid-19 support force
The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced it has readied an extra 10,000 military personnel to bolster its Covid-19 support force.
The move brings the total number of personnel on high readiness to help the UK respond to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic to 20,000. Personnel are being retrained to drive oxygen tankers for the NHS, and scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) are being drafted in to support Public Health England (PHE).
So far British personnel have helped arrange repatriation flights, but in an emergency situation, they could be used to support the police and NHS.
One hundred and fifty personnel will be trained to drive oxygen tankers from next Monday to maintain NHS supplies, and the MOD is taking measures to draw reservists with key skills back into service.
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.”
The MOD said that ‘well-rehearsed’ mechanisms were in place for the Armed Forces to support civil authorities where necessary.
The Covid support force will be organised by the standing joint force command and will manage the MOD’s contribution to the government’s response.
Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff Operations and Commitments Major General Charlie Stickland said: “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.
“The Covid Support Force, potentially drawing upon our highly-skilled scientists at Dstl or oxygen tanker drivers, will form part of a whole-force effort to support the country during its time of need. Our servicemen and women are committed to maintaining our operational output and delivering any support the government requires.”
Commenting on Dstl’s involvement a MOD spokesperson told Army Technology: “Dstl is providing hazard assessment, microbiological testing and operational analysis support to Government.”,
Dstl previously assisted in the recovery and response to the Novichok incident.
Today defence ministers will lay a Written Ministerial Statement in the House of Commons, allowing for reservists to be called up to assist in the response.
The MOD has already dispatched crisis planners to assist regional authorities in planning for the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The British Army today also announced that it was suspending face-to-face recruiting and basic training operations for the foreseeable future in response to the pandemic. It said that recruitment would continue ‘virtually’ and that it was looking into ways to maintain assessments without bringing large groups of people together.
Triumph Group announces cost reduction initiatives amid Covid-19
Triumph Group has announced cost reduction initiatives that will help the company maintain its position amid the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).
The move will directly affect the company’s overhead, indirect staff and temporary workers.
Triumph has not provided details about the number of possible job cuts and noted that furloughs will be done ‘selectively’.
Additionally, the company has said that the cost reduction action will help it balance the production capacity and expected demand in the market while maintaining long-term competitiveness.
The company has not experienced any material impact on its backlog or revenue due to the virus. Furthermore, it expects no impact in this fiscal year ending on 31 March 2020.
According to the company, the impact of the pandemic on its work is low as Triumph’s products and services are spread across various sectors such as defence, commercial, and international markets.
Triumph’s factories and main suppliers will remain operational, and no positive Covid-19 cases have been detected among any of its employees so far.
With reductions in travel, corporate events and other expenses, annual savings of $75m are expected from fiscal 2021.
Precautionary measures and safe work practices are exercised within the factory units.
The company has implemented work from home policies as per the guidelines of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to minimise exposure to the virus.
Until further development, business operations will continue in all company, said Triumph.
COVID-19: India confirms first positive coronavirus case in armed forces
The first positive COVID-19 case in the Armed Forces of India has been confirmed as the world’s second-most populous country works to avoid a coronavirus crisis.
The member has been identified as a 34-year old soldier from Ladakh Scouts, an infantry regiment of the Indian Army known as the ‘Snow Warriors’.
The soldier is a resident of Chuchot village in the Leh district of Ladakh, India, according to media sources.
He re-joined the service earlier this month after a casual leave from 25 February to 1 March.
He contracted the infection from his father, who had returned from Iran on 27 February and has also been tested positive with the virus.
His father was quarantined from 29 February and reported positive on 6 March.
An army source said that the soldier was also quarantined on 7 March and tested positive on 16 March.
Both of them are currently in isolation at Sonam Nurboo Memorial (SNM) hospital.
The soldier’s entire family, including his two children and all those who have come in contact with him, have been asked to quarantine at the hospital.
Meanwhile, an Indian Army officer and woman are in self-quarantine at a Pune military institute after showing certain virus symptoms.
No COVID-19 tests have been recommended or conducted on the two individuals.
These new cases involving the armed forces have come to light as the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across India has risen to 149.
Currently, the Indian military is running two medical facilities at Hindon, Ghaziabad and Manesar, Haryana, to manage Covid-19 cases.
Similar facilities at Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Suratgarh, Gorakhpur, Jhansi and Kolkata are currently being prepared to handle more civilians set to arrive in India amid coronavirus scare.
The Indian Army has postponed all of its courses and even cancelled ‘non-essential training, conferences and movement’.
The Indian Government has yesterday issued an additional travel advisory banning travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia to the country until 31 March and subsequent review.
US DoD halts troops travel to curb Covid-19 coronavirus
The US Department of Defence (DoD) has ordered personnel and their families to halt all travel to countries affected by the Covid-19 coronavirus starting today.
The DoD said it decided to ‘safeguard the health and safety of military and civilian personnel and their families.’
Secretary of Defence Mark Esper announced the measures yesterday in a memo entitled: “Travel restriction for DoD components in response to coronavirus disease 2019.”
Esper said: “The department is committed to doing our part in the administration’s comprehensive fight against the coronavirus by enhancing the safety of our personnel, helping them stay healthy, and making sure they’re able to continue executing the mission.”
Beginning today, all DoD civilian and military personnel and their families should not travel to, from, or through areas affected by the virus for the next 60 days. These restrictions include official travel, change of station, temporary duty, and government-funded leave.
The DoD also asks that personnel planning travel should not go through areas affected by the virus. The countries designated by the DoD to avoid are Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City.
The memo issued by Esper also calls on its components to examine all travel and only approve it when it is seen as ‘mission-essential’.
Esper said: “Our combat commanders, service secretaries and the chief management officer are authorised to grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Our commanders, of course, have the authority to provide direction and guidance to the troops every step of the way.”
Elsewhere several exercises involving US forces have been affected. Defender Europe 20 was originally set to see 20,000 personnel travel from the US to Europe however this is now being modified due to Covid-19 fears.
First US service member in Europe tested coronavirus Covid-19 positive
A US Navy sailor has been officially confirmed positive with coronavirus Covid-19, making them the first US service member in Europe to contract the virus.
The sailor was stationed at Naval Support Activity Naples in Italy and tested positive on 6 March.
The patient is currently staying at home and is being provided with support and medical care.
As a preventive measure, all other personnel who have come in close contact with him have been asked to put themselves to self-isolation at their residence.
In a statement, US European Command (EUCOM) said: “US European Command and US Naval Forces Europe-Africa are committed to taking every measure possible to protect the health of our force.
“We remain in close coordination with Italian authorities, US embassy, and public health authorities to ensure the wellbeing of our personnel and the local population.”
A thorough contact investigation is being carried out by military health professionals.
EUCOM added: “Depending on the results of that investigation, additional precautionary measures may be taken.”
Moreover, a US Marine assigned to Fort Belvoir in Virginia, US, has also tested positive with Covid -19 and is undergoing treatment at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital.
The marine had travelled overseas on official business and returned recently.
These two new cases come after one US soldier in South Korea was confirmed positive with the virus late last month.
With these developments and the evolving nature of the outbreak, the US Army has decided to limit travel to and from Italy and South Korea.
It has also prohibited ‘US exercises, exchanges and visits in the most affected nations’, reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, a Nato spokesperson has confirmed that one Nato staff member working at Nato HQ in Brussels has tested positive with Covid-19.
The staff member returned from a holiday in northern Italy and is currently in self-isolation at home.
In a statement, Nato spokesperson said: “Within minutes of receiving the result, all the immediate work colleagues were informed. They had been working from home at the end of last week and continue to do so.
“All Nato headquarters staff have also been informed of the confirmed case. Nato continues to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and to take all necessary measures.”