Defence Minister, Simon Coveney said that all soldiers who are going abroad will get their Covid jab before leaving Ireland. There are twenty soldiers leaving for Mali for example.
It was also confirmed that soldiers are to supervise private security companies at mandatory quarantine hotels. They will also play a role in in the ramping up of the vaccine rollout over the coming months.
This comes after we reported yesterday that Taíniste Leo Varadkar said to his parliamentary party that 300,000 vaccines will be rolled out per week from April. Varadkar said that the rollout plan will be “accelerated in March and April”.
The troops that are working close to Covid-19 in vaccination, testing and quarantine are all set to take priority.
Minister Coveney said, “We’re also prioritising Defence Forces that are going to be serving overseas. There are 20 Defence Forces personnel on rotation due to go to Mali on the 13th of this month. They will be vaccinated before they go”.
“It’s possible they could be delayed for 24 hours to make sure they get their second dose before they leave. But they will be vaccinated before they leave”.
Minister Coveney also added, “We have an agreement now with the HSE. This will ensure that before troops go abroad they are vaccinated which is the recommendation of the UN as well. I think we have a responsibility towards our Defence Force personnel. We want to make sure that they can leave assured as much as possible by being vaccinated before they go”.
“Playing a supervisory role”
The Health Amendment Bill 2021 enabling mandatory quarantine in Ireland was passed in the Seanad and will be signed by President Michael D Higgins in the coming days.
This mandatory quarantine will apply to people coming into Ireland from 33 Covid high risk countries, who arrive here without a negative test.
Minister Simon Coveney explained how soldiers will be posted at different operation centres. From there, they will monitor facilties and ensure they are running properly.
The minister said the Defence Forces will play a “supervisory role”, adding “to ensure that what is happening is what has been agreed and what has been planned for. Of course if the Defence Forces need to supplement that then they will be available to do that”.
“I think that’s probably the best way to do it to make sure that the discipline and the standards and the adherence to agreed logistical plans are being implemented as agreed”.
He added, “The Defence Forces are very good at that. They are on time, on point and they are very good at mapping out and planning how you respond to a certain situation. Whether it’s a crisis or whether it’s a routine operation. They are very disciplined in terms of ensuring consistency of delivery which is what we need here”.
“Phenominal job” – Coveney
The Defence Minister also said that the Defence Forces have done a “phenominal job” during this pandemic. This includes setting up test centres and delivery swabs to labs in Germany.
Defence Forces will work on “the logistics of moving vaccines around. He added, “they need to be stored properly and managed properly and they have a lifetime beyond which they are no longer safe to administer”.
Mr Coveney also said that army medics would be able to administer vaccines.