BERLIN – Germany will deploy the Bundeswehr to help civilian authorities fight the COVID-19 disease caused by the deadly novel coronavirus. Reservists of the German Bundeswehr have been called up, as much of European countries switch to a war footing over the deadly illness.
“We have called on all reservists, especially those with medical experience, to register with us,” Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the Financial Times on Thursday.
Karenbauer said that the reservists would support local police, transport essential goods, and treat the sick. In terms of confirmed coronavirus cases, Germany is among the hardest-hit countries in Europe by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 13,000 contracting the illness. Thirty-three patients have died. Between Wednesday and Thursday, another 1,305 cases were recorded in Germany.
As the country struggles to prevent an Italy-style explosion of cases, Berlin fears that supply lines may be disrupted. The Polish government’s decision to close its border with Germany caused a 40km traffic jam on Tuesday, with stringent checks for truck drivers threatening the flow of food and medicine along one of Europe’s busiest thoroughfares.
Supply chain disruptions also triggered the shutdown of the German industry, with auto giant Volkswagen suspending production this week, and the BMW following suit on Wednesday. The Bundeswehr itself has also been threatened by the virus. Last week, army inspector Alfons Mais entered isolation after coming into contact with an infected person.
Bundeswehr also joined their American counterparts in pulling out NATO’s ‘Defender Europe 2020’ exercises, a vast series of drills scheduled for the end of this month. Elsewhere in Europe, more and more countries are readying their militaries to fight the pandemic. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced the creation of a 10,000-strong ‘COVID Support Force’ on Thursday.
Italy too has deployed troops to handle the deadly illness. In the northern city of Bergamo, a convoy of army trucks were seen hauling corpses to the crematorium on Wednesday. France has also sent troops to the streets, as President Emmanuel Macron declared “we are at war with COVID-19” on Tuesday.