Armed Forces’ presence in Wales doubles to support vaccine rollout

Claire Hayhurst, PA

An additional 96 service personnel will be deployed to Wales to support the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines.

Simon Hart, secretary of state for Wales, and James Heappey, defence minister for the armed forces, approved a military aid request from the Welsh Government.

In total, 96 service personnel will be provided to carry out a range of tasks, including up to 20 defence medics who will lead teams of local vaccinators.

The deployment follows a similar request from the Welsh Government in December, which saw 92 service personnel support Welsh health boards with operating vaccination centres.

RAF veteran gets coronavirus vaccination
RAF veteran Ronald Maidment, 93, chatting to RAF personnel after receiving his coronavirus vaccination at Ty Penallta, Caerphilly ( Cpl Cathy Sharples/Ministry of Defence/Crown Copyright/PA)

As part of that task, trained defence personnel administered the vaccine for the first time since the rollout began.

Welsh Secretary Mr Hart said: “The vaccines represent the light at the end of the tunnel and their rapid rollout across the UK will help us regain normality as soon as possible.

“The British Armed Forces are vital in this effort and I’m incredibly thankful for the work they have been carrying out in Wales throughout the pandemic.”

The 96 additional service personnel will deploy to Wales from February 6 and are expected to be on task until the end of April.

Royal Air Force personnel carrying out coronavirus testing
Royal Air Force personnel carrying out coronavirus testing in Merthyr Tydfil ( SAC Connor Tierney/Ministry of Defence/Crown Copyright/PA)

Their progress will be reviewed in mid-February, which is the target for offering a first dose of the vaccine for the top four priority groups.

This review will establish the level of demand for the original 92 service personnel, who have been supporting the Welsh Government since early January and are expected to complete their duties on February 28.

Two military planners have also been provided to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board until mid-March.

Nadhim Zahawi, minister for Covid vaccine deployment, said: “Our military personnel are playing a crucial role in making sure that those who are eligible for the vaccine in every part of the United Kingdom get their jabs as quickly as possible.”

Defence minister Mr Heappey added: “I’m proud that the UK Armed Forces and NHS are working so closely together to roll out the vaccine across the UK.

“With this deployment we are stepping up our support in Wales, bringing specialist skills to accelerate vaccinations and save lives.”

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