After days of speculation the British army has finally been deployed to help combat the deadly COVID-19 disease, albeit in a limited capacity, at least for the time being.
It is understood that the army’s role is currently limited to the delivery of protective medical equipment to frontline National Health Service (NHS) staff engaged in the fight against COVID-19.
According to Sky News, hospital trusts have been told to expect deliveries of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits “around the clock”.
The army has been tasked to intervene in order to strengthen the health service’s supply chain after NHS staff warned they lack correct and adequate equipment to protect themselves in coronavirus-related clinical settings.
According to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, army trucks will deliver equipment to “all who need it”.
Speaking to Sky News earlier today, Hancock claimed a “PPE shipment” was delivered to “every hospital” over the weekend.
It is not clear if he was referring to every hospital in the UK or hospitals in England and Wales only.
Moreover, it is not clear at this stage if the army’s intervention is part of Operation Broadshare, a wide-ranging military plan to intervene in the coronavirus outbreak with a view to ensuring public safety and national security.
But in a sign the British military is planning to intervene more deeply in the crisis, it is being reported the army has told soldiers that commands issued over the messaging platform Whatsapp are now “legally binding”.
"In written orders posted to a Ministry of Defence intranet site, an Army unit told its soldiers that from now on, orders delivered over WhatsApp are to be treated just as seriously as written instructions delivered through the usual chain of command." https://t.co/BHnUV3cTY9— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) March 23, 2020
The mounting reports and speculation centered on a significant military intervention speak to the hidden depths of the coronavirus crisis in the UK, with the British establishment increasingly fearful of a breakdown of social order.