Covid-19: Robin Swann asks for assistance from military

By Julian O'Neill
BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

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Image source, Matt Cardy
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The request for military medics' assistance was made by Stormont's Department of Health

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering a new request for military support to help the health service deal with Covid-19 pressures.

It is understood that upwards of 100 military personnel have been requested by Health Minister Robin Swann.

The MoD has agreed to several appeals for assistance during the pandemic.

The Department of Health has confirmed it has requested assistance and is now awaiting a final decision by the MoD in London.

A spokesperson for the Health Department said: "Our health and social care system is under severe pressure.

"The current pressures involve a number of factors including Covid and wider winter pressures on services and Covid-related staff absences".

"The minister and department are liaising very closely with trust and board colleagues in relation to the current situation".

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The BBC understands Robin Swann has requested between 100 and 150 personnel

The BBC understands the number of personnel being requested is between 100 and 150 and would be a mix or medical and non-medical staff for deployment in Northern Ireland hospitals.

Military personnel have been used in earlier stages of Northern Ireland's response to the health emergency.

In total, more than 500 armed forces personnel have been deployed in Northern Ireland during the pandemic.

One request involved 100 medics being sent to the mass vaccination centre at the SSE Arena in Belfast.

For two months at the beginning of 2021, armed forces personnel also worked alongside nurses at three local hospitals - the Ulster, Belfast City and Antrim Area.

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