Defence Forces ready in case of Omicron surge

Defence Forces ready in case of Omicron surge

Some of their first work was to erect tents outside some hospitals in case there was a massive surge in patients needing treatment.

The Defence Forces are currently providing 40 swab testers daily and 30 personnel to vaccination centres nationwide, as well as 30 call lines for contact tracing in Kilkenny and Donegal. 

According to Lieutenant Colonel Louis Flynn who is leading the Covid-19 Joint Taskforce, they also stand ready should the hospitals become overwhelmed by an Omicron variant related surge.

They have been constantly working with the HSE since the pandemic struck more than 600 days ago.

Some of their first work was to erect tents outside some hospitals in case there was a massive surge in patients needing treatment.

Fortunately, that didn't occur, but in the wake of the discovery of the more contagious Omicron variant there have been fears expressed that hospitals will be overwhelmed.

Lieut Col Flynn said that if the situation demands it they will put up tents again, which will be used for triage. These tents will come equipped with electricity, heating and lighting.

The Defence Forces have to date dedicated more than 113,000 hours and nearly 23,000 transport journeys in support of the HSE's battle against Covid-19.

On the ground and in the air they continue to aid the fight against the pandemic, known as Operation Fortitude.

Lieutenant Colonel Flynn said the Defence Forces remain in daily contact with the HSE on a seven-day week basis to react to any requests for help.

“We are trying to balance where the demand is and what resources we can allocate to the HSE. We are constantly monitoring the situation in conjunction with the HSE,” the senior officer said.

The vast majority of the aid to the HSE is coming from the Army, but the Air Corps transports Covid-19 tests to Germany three times a week.

The Defence Forces commitment to helping in the fight against the fourth wave of Covid-19 has seen its personnel involved in a number of tasks following requests for help from the health authorities.

Since November 1, troops have been supporting contact tracing by providing 20 call lines at Stephen' Barracks in Kilkenny - operated by members of 3 Battalion - and at Finner Camp, Co Donegal – operated by the 28 Battalion.

A request for an additional 10 lines was received from the HSE on November 15 and the Defence Forces set them up at the Eir building in Dublin where they're being operated by members of the Defence Forces Training Centre and Air Corps personnel.

All the contact tracing lines are manned from Mondays to Saturdays.

Defence Forces personnel are also involved in swab taking at nine testing centres around the country.

Lieut Colonel Flynn said that they provided 26 swab testers daily up until November 22, but after a request from the HSE this has since been increased to 40. The additional 14 were drafted in from the Defence Forces first responders (paramedics) and from the Field Artillery Regiment.

Meanwhile, on November 24, they received a request to assist in logistical support to Vaccination Centres nationwide.

This support commenced on 1 December, with an additional 30 personnel deployed to these centres.

On any given day, around 100 Defence Forces personnel are involved in operations to aid the HSE.

The Defence Forces   is currently short 1,000 personnel of the recommended 9,500 .

RACO, the officers association, recently suggested that Ireland is over-committed to overseas peacekeeping duties and should revisit the number of missions it's involved in.

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