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Coronavirus crisis. Armies called to the rescue (v2)

(B2) It is not only in France where the military has been called to the rescue. Other countries decided, very quickly (even faster), to call on these resources. Logistics, health services, border patrols are among the main tasks entrusted to them. Little tour

NB: this tour is not complete, it will be updated or supplemented with other articles

France: a field hospital deployed

In the wake of French President Emmanuel Macron's presidential decision, Monday (March 16) evening, the Ministry of the Armed Forces is sending a military resuscitation element (EMR) to Mulhouse, near the hospital. A tent infrastructure with around thirty beds equipped for resuscitation, deployed by the medical regiment (RMED) of the army (of La Valbonne) and 'armed' by the army health service (SSA). Operational structure one week later. The first patient was treated on Tuesday (March 24).

The Valhbonne medical regiment sets up the field hospital in Mulhouse (credit: DICOD / EMA)

An Airbus A330, equipped with a medical evacuation version (Morphée kit), began shuttles on Wednesday (March 18) between the Mulhouse hospital, overwhelmed by the crisis, and several other French hospitals (Bordeaux, Brest, Lorient, etc.) , as the French defense specifies in a communicated. While the projection and command building Thunder (L-9014) repatriated 12 patients from Ajaccio to the continent. The objective is to " unclog some overwhelmed hospitals, in mainland France, Corsica and overseas » one of the communications officers told B2. The Élysée decides on Wednesday (March 25) to launch an operation to support French public services and hospitals called 'operation resilience'. Three BPC-type ships will be deployed overseas, one (the BPC Mistral) is heading to the Indian Ocean to lend a hand to hospitals in Mayotte and Reunion; the other (the BPC Dixmude) that of the Atlantic to support the Antilles (Guadeloupe, Martinique, St Martin) and Guyana.

Germany: analysis labs on the front line

The German army health service has been mobilizing since… the end of January. The first suspected case in Germany involving a man from Bavaria was thus confirmed by theBundeswehr Institute of Microbiology in Munich at the end of January. While the Luftwaffe began flights to repatriate German nationals stranded abroad as well as bringing some medical equipment to Italy. Berlin has also decided to start listing its reservists by asking volunteers to report from March 19. Repeated calls are aimed in particular at those with medical skills, in particular to strengthen military hospitals, integrated into the civilian hospital system almost everywhere in the country.

A Luftwaffe plane transports equipment to Italy (credit: MAE Italy / Di Maio)

Austria: the army on all fronts

From the start of the epidemic in Austria, on March 9, the army was put on alert, first to lend a hand to the border police. A tradition in Austria where with each crisis the Bundesheer is called in as reinforcement. No question of " repeat the mistakes of 2015 » said Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner in a joint statement with her Interior colleague, Karl Nehammer (both members of the Christian Democratic ÖVP party). “ We are not going to smuggle refugees through Austria. » Very quickly, soldiers were also deployed for other tasks. In several states (Vienna, Vorarlberg, Carinthia, etc.), army athletes and personnel from army logistics centers were deployed, starting Monday March 16. These are confronted challenged to replace their own workforce, to ensure merchandise rotation and deliveries to grocery stores we explain to the Ministry of Defence. Soldiers have also taken over from police for the protection of embassies and international institutions in Vienna, at the request of the Land police.

Soldiers providing reinforcement in a wholesaler's depot in Carinthia (credit: MOD Austria)

Belgium: alert and support for medical supplies

The services of the Neder-Over-Heembeek military hospital have been placed on alert and reinforced. Its ambulances can, at the request of number 112, transport more coronavirus patients between hospitals in Brussels and Flemish Brabant. Civil protection and the military act together for the storage, reconditioning and distribution of millions of protective masks. A first shipment, which arrived on the night of March 19 to 20 in Liège, was transported to the military district of Peutie, and then redistributed throughout the rest of the country. A second shipment arrived on March 23.

Unloading the arrival of masks (credit: MOD Belgium)

Spain: Operation Balmis

Madrid launched a military operation called 'Balmis', in homage to the Spanish military doctor who led major vaccination campaigns in the colonies at the beginning of the 2600th century. 48 soldiers were deployed in XNUMX different locations in order to support other services and law enforcement for assistance to the population and security: sending home residents who do not respect confinement, assistance with the construction of a civilian field hospital, deliveries of medical equipment, logistics and even help for the homeless. The military also disinfected various sites where vulnerable populations live (elderly people, disabled people, etc.). According to the Ministry of Defense, around thirty establishments of this type were cleaned last week in Madrid alone.

Hungary: borders first concern

More than a hundred soldiers were to be sent on Saturday (March 21) to the Slovak and Austrian borders to “ strengthen the border lock », indicated Hungarian Defense Minister Tibor Benkő on Hir TV. They are provided by the 5th István Bocskai Infantry Brigade and the 24th Gergely Bornemissza Reconnaissance Regiment, all based in Debrecen.

Poland: reinforcements at the borders as well

As of March 23, Poland mobilized 4968 defense personnel and civilians in the face of the coronavirus. The bulk of the contingent (1800 men) operates directly in support of the police and border guard forces, to protect access to the country, especially on the west side (border on the Oder with Germany). A little more than 500 soldiers carry out various logistical missions to help other services, particularly health, by transporting medicines. Several biological laboratories help carry out a few hundred coronavirus tests per day. On a purely medical level, the 14 Polish military hospitals were on alert from the start of the crisis.

Soldiers deployed on the 'western' border towards Germany (credit: MOD Poland)

Czech Republic

Since March 10, health service professionals have been deployed to the borders to examine the health status of people showing symptoms of viral illness at border crossings. More Czech soldiers were deployed on Monday (March 16) to reinforce police units to secure the national border. The government having decided to close the country. The military was also mobilized to help transport minimal medical equipment (simple or breathing masks) to all hospitals in the country (read: Prague organizes an airlift to repatriate masks and respirators from China).


Soldiers will come to reinforce the public order forces (gendarmerie and police), announcement President Klaus Iohannis on Tuesday (March 24) after stronger restrictions were put in place on the population.

(NGV, with RM in Paris)

(updated) Clarifications provided on the resilience operation

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).