Personnel Stationed Abroad: Covid-19

Defence – in the House of Commons on 6th July 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

What recent estimate he has made of the number of British armed forces personnel stationed abroad who have contracted covid-19.

Photo of James Heappey James Heappey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

Twenty-five service personnel have tested positive for covid while serving overseas.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Minister for his response. Will he further outline whether any personnel have had to return home due to covid-19 issues? If there is a facility to get our troops home as needed, are they hospitalised according to their regimental location, or are they hospitalised all together?

Photo of James Heappey James Heappey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I am not aware of any individual circumstances in which someone has been recovered back to the UK as a consequence of having tested positive. The symptoms would determine whether they required hospitalisation. Medical facilities in all theatres of operation and on all ships are appropriate to deal with covid as it would normally stand. If an instance had been more serious, we would of course have looked at the need to recover the individual.

Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister (Defence) (Armed Forces and Defence Procurement), Shadow Minister (Defence)

Our troops have rightly continued their duties overseas for the duration of the pandemic, keeping our citizens safe and helping to maintain international peace. However, there are concerns that in countries such as Iraq, where some British troops are stationed and there has been a surge in covid-19 cases over the past 24 hours, the worst may be yet to come. With that in mind, what contingency plans have the Government put in place to safeguard our troops operating in areas prone to further covid-19 outbreaks and their families?

Photo of James Heappey James Heappey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

The theatre commander can make a judgment about the degree to which the risk of exposure to a population with a large amount of covid within it is worth the operational needs. That is a decision for the operational commander. In theatre, all sorts of force-protection measures are available, ranging from personal protective equipment to the choice not to continue with operational duties if they are deemed to be too risky.