German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) has promised “far-reaching measures” by the German military (Bundeswehr) to contain the coronavirus pandemic. She said that up to 3,000 military doctors were available, and that the allocation of medical material was already underway. EURACTIV Germany reports.
“We will provide support as long as we are needed”, the Minister said at a press conference Thursday (19 March) afternoon. She said that the Bundeswehr would support the healthcare system primarily by procuring protective clothing, equipment, medical devices and medication. To that end, the Bundeswehr Procurement Service had been active for weeks, collecting material from all over the world. Already 50 applications for official services have been received, 13 of which have been approved.
In addition, the Bundeswehr can provide camp beds and storage capacity. There are up to 1,200 isolated care facilities for patients. Nevertheless, no “exaggerated expectations” should be raised, said Kramp-Karrenbauer. With about 3,000 people, the doctors of the Bundeswehr represent only a small group in the overall health system.
The Bundeswehr is currently in the process of recruiting reserve forces. Approximately 75,000 people are actively available from its 120,000 reserve unit, 935 of whom have so far been scheduled for medical service, the Minister said. Later, she said, there would be a move to reactivate reserves officers from other units. These could, for example, step in to guard critical infrastructure facilities such as hydroelectric or electric power plants, should private security services fail.
In the past few days, the Bundeswehr has already been active in setting up local healthcare facilities. In addition, soldiers at the German-Polish border have helped to supply people stuck in long traffic jams with drinks, food and blankets.
In addition to all this, the Bundeswehr continues to fulfil its core tasks, Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed. These currently include the repatriation of German citizens from crisis regions and the securing of NATO’s eastern flank in the Baltic States and Poland.
The army has also already come to the aid of governments in other European countries. In France, military helicopters helped to fly sick people from congested hospitals to less affected regions. In Italy, dozens of military transporters were used to carry the many dead from hospitals to cemeteries.
(Edited by Benjamin Fox)