Soldiers from the British Army will again partner up with ambulance teams in Wales to help deal with the “extreme pressure” on their service during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Welsh Ambulance Service said more than 90 soldiers will be re-enlisted to drive its vehicles from Wednesday to support teams responding to emergency callouts.
Wales was put into lockdown on Sunday with its latest seven-day Covid-19 case rate now at 623 cases per 100,000 people and rising, putting increased strain on the country’s health services.
Soldiers previously answered the call to back up ambulance teams in April during he first wave of the virus as part of the Ministry of Defence’s 20,000-strong Covid Response Force, set up to put service personnel and reservists on standby to support public services in response to the pandemic.
Although unable to travel under blue lights to emergencies, their duties will include driving ambulances, lifting and handling patients and assisting paramedics with non-clinical tasks, allowing teams to split up and spread their resources across their fleet.
Among the members of the armed forces linking up with ambulance teams will be soldiers from 9 Regiment Royal Logistics Corps, who have been undergoing training for deployment at their headquarters in Chippenham, Wiltshire.
On Tuesday, the ambulance service’s chief executive Jason Killens said: “The extreme pressure on our ambulance service in the last couple of weeks has been well documented, and it’s why we’ve taken the decision to re-enlist the military, who did a superb job of assisting us earlier in the year.
“Winter is our busiest period, and with the second wave of a global pandemic also to contend with, this is about bolstering our capacity as far we can and putting us in the best possible position to provide a safe service to the people of Wales.”
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said: “With coronavirus case rates at high levels in many areas of Wales, it’s welcome and reassuring that our armed forces will help our ambulance and NHS services during what is set to be a very busy winter period.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the military has stepped up to support health services across Wales with the distribution of PPE (personal protective equipment), construction of a temporary hospital in Cardiff, assisting community testing in the South Wales valleys and will help roll out community vaccine in the coming months.
“The use of the armed forces to help with this vital work demonstrates the UK Government’s commitment to meet the needs of the whole of the United Kingdom as we continue to tackle the pandemic.”
Minister of the armed forces, James Heappey, added: “The whole of the United Kingdom must pull together if we are to overcome coronavirus and get back to the way of life we know and value.
“Our armed forces will do this again in Wales by joining the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust for the second time this year.
“Ninety four military personnel, including medics and drivers, will support the ambulance service as they care for the most vulnerable during these challenging times.”