By Euro Weekly News Media • 17 March 2020 • 21:33
Following reports earlier that more than 10,000 members of the UK Armed Forces could be put on standby as COVID-19 continues to spread, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) refused to confirm whether or not personnel would be involved.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace dismissed reports that the British Army could be drafted in to protect shops as “entirely fictional”.
The MOD has been continually working up plans to offer potential support to the public and civil authorities, under the name Operation Broadshare.
Boris Johnson had stated publicly that the Army was “ready to backfill” as and when” required, as part of “long-established plans” for worst-case scenarios.
During defence questions today, Mr Wallace told MPs: “I have to say to the House that some of the media stories are entirely fictional.
“There are absolutely no plans to send military personnel to guard supermarkets.
“However, despite trying to clarify that with the media, there is still an intention in some parts of the media to continue to write these stories.
“And indeed there is some suspicion about where some of these stories are developed.”
Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, later sought assurances from Mr Wallace that the UK will “not drop our guard” and allow those who want to cause harm to the country to take advantage.
“The coronavirus will test the nation in ways we’ve not seen since the war,” Mr Ellwood said.
“I think it’s a matter of when not if the armed forces will be mobilised. We know they will rise to the occasion to help other departments.
“But the threats that are there today continue to exist.”
Mr Wallace, in his reply, said he had held talks with senior military personnel to ensure they could deliver on the priority to defend the nation.
He added: “That’s why where we see changes it will be in areas like exercising or non-essential travel so we can make sure that those armed forces personnel are there to support the rest of the country when it comes to coronavirus.”
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