Over the weekend it was reported that a rise in coronavirus cases among the UK’s armed forces is a potential threat to national security. This also demonstrates that the government is failing to protect troops, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Coronavirus have warned, which is a charge that is not new to the MOD.
The APPG have warned that the government needs to take “urgent action” to boost vaccine uptake among troops and protect them from the virus.
A total of 11,890 cases of Covid have now been recorded in the armed forces, which is made up of some 280,000 personnel. Comparatively, these figures seem fairly remote to one another, but it is the speed and increase in the figures that are giving cause for concern.
These MOD figures show an increase of 1,474 COVID-19 cases among the military in the two weeks to 23 July – which is the highest number recorded in any fortnight period in 2021.
Also of concern, the official figures show no COVID-19 vaccination record for approximately a quarter of armed forces personnel as of 5 July, some 54,742 personnel in total.
The APPG concludes that the increase in Covid transmission based on these figures poses a threat to national security.
Labour MP Clive Lewis, vice chairman of the APPG, said: “These shocking figures show the government is failing to protect our armed forces, who have played such an important role on the front line of this pandemic.
He continued: “Neglecting them and allowing COVID to ravage through their ranks threatens not only the fight against the virus, but also our national security.
“Ministers must urgently set out a plan to boost vaccine uptake in the armed forces and prevent cases from rising further.”
In response, the MoD claim that some 79% of all serving personnel have received a vaccination and that they have already vaccinated 74% of 18 to 29-year-olds since June 18, a statistic they claim that is ahead of UK national vaccination figures.
Additionally, they confirm that all personnel serving overseas have been offered a vaccine and they have no concerns regarding take-up, as only 0.5% of armed forces personnel have declined a vaccine.
At a time when there appears to be a hopeful return to normality in more and more aspects of our everyday life, due to the success of the vaccination roll out across the UK, these statistics are unwelcome news. We can only hope that these figures are a temporary setback for our armed forces in the fight against Covid-19.