| 7.3°C Belfast

Coronavirus: Military ready to provide assistance in Northern Ireland when required

Close

The military is ready to provide assistance "as and when required" in Northern Ireland

The military is ready to provide assistance "as and when required" in Northern Ireland

The military is ready to provide assistance "as and when required" in Northern Ireland

The military is ready to provide assistance "as and when required" in Northern Ireland.

It follows reports of increased activity at several Ministry of Defence (MoD) bases here as the coronavirus crisis escalates.

It is understood that tents and temporary buildings that could be used as field hospitals have been installed at some sites.

Sources said any assistance from the MoD over the coming days and weeks would be part of a scheme known as military aid to the civil authorities (MACA).

This refers to the operational deployment of the Army to support civilian authorities, government and the community.

An MoD spokesman said: “The MoD remains prepared to offer assistance as and when it is required.

“There are well developed protocols under which the military can provide assistance to the civil authorities (MACA), for example in the current ongoing provision of EOD capabilities (bomb disposal) and specialist search.

“All requests for MACA are considered on merit and this remains extant.”

A source said it was inevitable the military would become involved if the situation deteriorated.

They added: “The thing about the military is that it is very good at looking at contingencies.

“For every possible contingency there will be a folder somewhere.

“It is called war-gaming ­- think of the worst possible thing that can happen and a strategy will have been developed to deal with it.

“That is what the military is good at and it is what has been done nationally with Cobra and the government.”

They added that while they have to prepare for worst case scenarios, there was also a duty not to unnecessarily panic people.

Last week it emerged the Chief of the Defence Staff has told the armed forces to plan for a six-month coronavirus operation.

In a letter to senior officers, General Sir Nick Carter has said the armed forces should treat the military response to the pandemic as a six-month operational tour.

General Carter said in the note: “The indications are that this disease will spike around late May and early June.

“We are to be prepared for our collective posture to be on an operational footing by mid-April, recognising that this could endure for six months or so.”

The Prime Minister has previously said there are “long-established plans” for the Army to “backfill” in emergencies.

Government sources have played down suggestions that the military would play a wider role.

Belfast Telegraph