By GRAHAME ANDERSON
The UK Government has been working round the clock – at home and abroad – to help people through Coronavirus.
Stepping up to assist during the coronavirus crisis is the UK’s brilliant Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, who have been tirelessly helping with everything from building emergency hospitals, driving ambulances, to delivering vital supplies and so much more.
RAF Leeming Leading Way in App Technology
The Royal Air Force has been leading the way in app technology to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Led by the station’s cutting-edge digital unit, RAF eXperimental or RAFX, they initially trialed as part of the app currently being tested on the Isle of Wight.
RAF Leeming was chosen by the NHS to stage the trial because of its excellent record of testing app software. In fact, RAFX remains at the forefront of driving new processes across the force.
It’s a perfect example of how the forces have been playing a major role in defeating coronavirus and helping both the NHS, and the people of Britain. In more general terms The UK’s Ministry of Defence works for a secure and prosperous United Kingdom with global reach and influence. They protect our people, territories, values, and interests at home strong armed forces and in partnership with allies, to ensure our security, support our national interests and safeguard our prosperity.
RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire trains, delivers, and supports UK and overseas Expeditionary Air Operations. The Station is home to a diverse range of squadrons and lodger units including 90 Signals Unit, and a Mountain Rescue Team.
The app utilises Bluetooth software in determining an individual’s closeness to other devices. If someone is displaying symptoms or indeed, has tested positive in terms of the virus, they have the chance to share this information with the NHS using the app.
This will trigger an alert to other devices they’ve had close proximity with. These users can choose to self-isolate or be tested for the virus. At RAF Leeming, more than 300 personnel and their families have carried the app on their phones as ‘beta testers.’
RAFX set up a scenario simulating people’s experience of shopping.
To keep social-distancing rules, phones were placed on tables to simulate people clustering in a shopping area. The group got others to walk past as if they were just looking in shop windows. When this happened, the Bluetooth software registered one phone’s proximity to another.
Group Captain Blyth Crawford, RAF Leeming SC said: “The Royal Air Force is doing everything it can to support the NHS and with the help of RAFX and the personnel at RAF Leeming, we have provided the perfect testing ground for projects such as this.
“All of our participants were volunteers and spanned the service, Reservist, Civil Service, Contractor and Dependent Communities here on station. We are delighted the results have helped the NHS in their drive to develop an application to assist in tracking any spread of the virus.”
NHSX has promised to publish its key security and privacy designs as well the app’s source code, so experts in the field can help ensure it is “world class”.
The division is working with Apple and Google on the project but has yet to confirm whether it will adopt their protocols.
It should be remembered a number, of third-party apps and websites have been collecting COVID-19 symptom data in order to track the spread of the virus.
On 18 March, the Defence Secretary announced a COVID Support Force to assist public services with their response to the coronavirus outbreak. There were 20,000 Armed Forces personnel stood at readiness to assist civil authorities, of which nearly 4,000 have already been deployed.
RAF Leeming has made a huge contribution – and a lasting positive legacy for us all.
Bringing Britons Back
Since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown measures were imposed by countries around the globe, which left millions of Britons stranded.
The Foreign Office has been working around the clock with the airline industry and host governments across the world to help bring back British travellers as part of a major plan announced by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on 30 March.
Up to £75 million has been made available for special charter flights to priority countries, focused on helping the most vulnerable travellers.
The first flight to bring British travellers back to the UK following the outbreak departed Wuhan on 31 January, and the 30,000th passenger to return home to the UK landed on a special charter flight from Amritsar, northern India, on Saturday 9 May.
The countries with the greatest numbers of British travellers returning on Government charter flights include:
- more than 13,500 British nationals from India on 58 flights since 8 April
- more than 4,000 British nationals on 19 flights from Pakistan since 20 April
- more than 2,000 British nationals from South Africa from 9-17
- more than 1,500 British nationals from New Zealand since 25 April
There have been many instances of rescue missions of stranded Britons.
One such instance was when 109 British nationals found themselves stuck in isolated parts of Nepal.
British Gurkhas Nepal
Thanks to the ingenious local knowledge of the British Gurkhas Nepal, based in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Dharan, the UK Embassy staff were able to map out where the stranded British travellers were.
Over three weeks, the soldiers, embassy staff and local drivers travelled more than 4,000 miles through the Himalayas to reach the tourists, who were scattered across dozens of mountainous towns, villages, and national parks.
Sergeant Prakash Gurung, of 29 Regiment, Royal Logistic national from Manang, north-west Nepal, before driving the solo traveller nine-and-a-half hours back to Kathmandu, to catch a charter flight organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Sgt Gurung, who has completed three tours of Iraq, as well as serving in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Kenya and Germany, said: “I stepped up to volunteer because I thought it was a part of my job. Helping people in dire situations gives me a sense of satisfaction. The gratitude people expressed in messages has encouraged me to do more of this sort of work.”
Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Nepal, Nicola Pollitt, said: “Getting British national’s home in such an unprecedented time is a huge challenge… We have been able to reunite more than 700 British travellers with their families in the UK, and that would not have been possible without the tireless work of our Embassy and Gurkha team.”
In another instance, staff in India masterminded a 60-hour, 1,700 mile-long trip involving five different drivers and crossing seven states, even receiving a police escort at one point, to make sure a British citizen could take one of the special return flights to the UK.
Nick Low, the British deputy high commissioner in Kolkata in India’s eastern West Bengal state, helped in the evacuation of Corinne Henderson, who was stuck in a remote village called Nongman, an eight-hour drive from Imphal, Manipur in northeast India. Her journey involved 60hours on the road, covering a similar distance from London to Moscow, before she boarded a flight to UK, landing in Heathrow on May Day.
Low said: “A lot has been written about working round the clock. And sometimes you need to. Not just for Corinne but for the other seven British nationals who had put their trust in us.
“It was a journey that required help, both small and large, from many a journey that highlighted the importance of teamwork, perseverance, good local knowledge, good local contacts and a never-say-die attitude.”
UK PLAYING A KEY ROLE IN THE RACE FOR A VACCINE
Since the coronavirus pandemic was announced scientists across the world have been frantically on a hunt to find a vaccine against the virus.
The British government is ensuring it is playing its part by investing to fund research projects internationally.
With all eyes on developing a vaccine, the DFID aid budget has meant that UK is the largest single contributor by any country to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness – and it’s already backing nine potential sources.
With the help of this funding scientists and researchers at Oxford University are now progressing to clinical trials with funding from the UK government’s Vaccines Taskforce – which is also funding a vaccine trial starting soon at Imperial College.
Once a vaccine is found, delivering it globally will be the next big challenge, so the UK Government has invested the equivalent of £330 million a year for the next five years in Gavi, the global vaccine alliance that delivers vaccines in 68 of the poorest countries around the world.
The UK is also expected to host the Global Vaccines Summit to co-ordinate International investment efforts for Gavi on June 4.