10,000 soldiers told Christmas could be cancelled due to Covid
10,000 troops could see their Christmas leave postponed as the ‘overstretched’ army battles to help the Government’s coronavirus response.
With the armed forces being called into action for various roles to help out in the crisis, there are fears that a ‘perfect storm’ of a Brexit no-deal, winter flooding and could hamper soldiers’ efforts.
It may mean that some troops have their time off interrupted or postponed, The Times reported. The Ministry of Defence insists leave will not be ‘cancelled’ and no individual will lose their annual leave entitlement.
Soldiers are involved with various aspects of the response to Covid-19, including mass testing. Some 7,500 personnel has been stood up by the Ministry of Defence to support government departments over winter, with 2,000 troops deployed to Liverpool for the city-wide mass testing scheme.
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An army source told The Times: ‘It’s prudent and judicious planning to make sure we’ve got the nation’s back as an insurance policy if other government departments ask us to do things.
‘There’s an expectation that that’s the kind of lifestyle you sign up to. That’s why people join the forces. We’re always on some form of readiness, as plans develop and change. Whether it’s flooding or something else, we’re always there and ready to go.’
It is understood that most personnel will be able to leave barracks or their place of work, but will be on call.
Defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin said last week that the armed forces are involved in 341 tasks relating to Covid-19.
The Times reported that units of the army’s 3rd Division have been warned that they could be called up over Christmas.
A source told the paper that the army was ‘overstretched’, by being 9,000 short of its minimum target of 82,000 regular troops.
They said: ‘This year could be the perfect storm: Brexit, Covid-19, flooding. There is only so much we can do with a small army, and unless we get a multi-year budget settlement from the chancellor, it could become smaller still.
A Ministry of Defence Spokesperson told Metro.co.uk ‘The nation’s Armed Forces will do whatever is necessary to protect this country, from supporting the NHS and local communities at home to sustaining critical operations overseas. The public would expect no less.
‘Thousands of public servants from the emergency services, the NHS, the Armed Forces and local government around the country will be on call this Christmas.’
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