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Three military camps will be adapted into isolation units to help deal with Covid surge


Coolmoney Camp, Glen of Imaal, Co Wicklow. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Coolmoney Camp, Glen of Imaal, Co Wicklow. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Coolmoney Camp, Glen of Imaal, Co Wicklow. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Three military camps are being adapted so that they can be used as isolation centres for Covid-19 patients.

They are the Coolmoney camp in the Glen of Imaal and Kilbride, both in Co Wicklow, and Kilworth camp in Co Cork.

The Wicklow camps were used last year to quarantine members of the Defence Forces before deployment to overseas peace missions, while troops also had the option of using those centres for isolation after deployment if they could not go home.

The Defence Forces have also been involved in establishing step-down medical facilities at Citywest in Dublin and the University of Limerick. However, there has been no request from the HSE for the conversion of military facilities into field hospitals.

A military hospital, St Bricin’s, in Dublin, is also available for conversion and there is contingency planning to provide support for, and manning of, national body storage facilities in temporary morgues. The Defence Forces are also working in close cooperation with the HSE to provide surge capacity in terms of swab testing and contact-tracing capabilities.

As part of Operation Fortitude, which was set up last March, the Defence Forces are providing support across four specific streams, known as the four Ts: testing, tracing, transport and tentage.

Personnel have been supplying advice based on their experiences in dealing with the Ebola disease in Africa and working with the EU mission Sophia, in rescuing migrants being sent across the Mediterranean from Libya by human smuggling networks.

During the first wave of the virus, the Defence Forces provided personnel for testing, administrative and marshalling duties at the Aviva centre in Dublin, with 44,064 tests carried out to date.

Additional frontline support was given over Christmas and this is set to continue.

Senior management have committed up to 56 military first responders daily to community health organisations, creating a capacity for up to 4,000 additional swab tests a day. An extra 60 military personnel were trained by the HSE over the Christmas weekend to complement personnel from the Defence Forces bands and bring the total surge-support figure to 100 for the third wave.

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The LÉ Eithne has been available as a logistics support base at Cork port, while other naval ships have been ready to back up shore-side test centres at Dublin and Galway ports.

Figures compiled by the military up to December 18 show their personnel carried out 53,259 Covid-related duties, involving 9,442 vehicles, 197 naval vessels, 10 aircraft and 1,391 members of the Reserve Defence Force.

Members of the Ordnance Corps were also involved with Aquila Bioscience in the development of AntiBioAgent decontamination wipes (ABDs).

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