On March 22, Downing Street announced plans to protect the 1.5 million people considered at high-risk if contracting the virus. While the response was criticised as being too late, the country entered lockdown on March 23, meaning all citizens must remain at home, except those who carry out “essential” jobs.
Despite the measures introduced and the highly-echoed advise to “remain at home,” reports continued that public transport in London was still packed.
According to a report in the Sunday Times the prime minister’s chief aide, Dominic Cummings, argued for a highly-restrictive lockdown that halted all movement in and out of the capital.
Military chiefs are said to have been advised to prepare their troops for the event of being deployed to enforce a lockdown.
While their potential involvement faced some criticism at first, the military’s help in the pandemic meant PPE was delivered to frontline healthcare workers and that field hospitals were built in time to treat Covid-19 patients.
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Colonel Ashleigh Boreham, who has carried out two tours of Iraq and one of Afghanistan, said it was the biggest assignment of his career.
As commanding officer of 256 City of London Field Hospital, he oversees servicemen working on the NHS site.
Built in around ten day, the hospital has a bed capacity of 4,000.
Similar sites were set up in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow to relieve pressure on existing hospitals across the country.
Servicemen are helping carry out coronavirus testing
Speaking to the Sunday Times Colonel Boreham, who helped build field hospitals across the globe, said: “We are building a hospital for people in our nation.
“You are saving people’s lives and they could be the lives of your families. It’s the biggest job I’ve ever done.
“My grandfather was at the Somme, this is no different. I’m just at a different battle.
“I’m from London, I have friends and family in London. Many of the people working here, many of the soldiers working here, are from London.”
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“We are doing this to save the lives of Londoners. These are our comrades, there’s no difference. It doesn’t matter if they are civilian or military.”
He said the NHS, which is leading the efforts, and the military had “one single purpose, one single aim to save lives”.
His mother, 88, is in “lockdown” at home in London, alongside his son, he said.
Speaking about his mother, he said: “She has been proud of me since the moment I joined the army.”
The military has helped build field hospitals in time to treat Covid-19 patients
Colonel Boreham said having loved ones close by meant that the mission to tackle the pandemic was “very personal.”
He explained: “It is very personal, it cannot be anything else. It focuses the mind, and that is why you have everyone pulling together.”
During a tour in Afghanistan in 2013-14, Colonel Boreham was commander med, meaning he supervised for all the military medical efforts in the war-zone.
The NHS Nightingale project is his last assignment before he retires.
“At every stage the NHS are leading this, we are literally just doing that little bit of assisting and planning. They are amazing,” he said.
Published at Sun, 24 May 2020 01:16:00 +0000