The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) is drawing down the size of its Covid-19 support force as the UK takes tentative steps towards easing its Covid-19 lockdown.

20,000 personnel have been on high readiness as part of the MOD’s Covid support force, 12,500 of which are now set to return to normal duties, leaving 7,500 personnel to support the response to the pandemic.

Defence Minister James Heappey said: “Whilst we no longer need 20,000 troops at high readiness, they’ve not gone anywhere, they’re still available to respond to further Covid19-realted tasks and we can return them to high readiness if the need arises.

“But if you have a lot of troops at high readiness, it has an impact on their lives and the training they can do.

“We are acutely aware that if we have a large number of troops at high readiness, they can’t be training for operations and contingencies we might need them for in the near future.

“In a post-Covid world that will be more uncertain, that leaves the nation less safe.”

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The MOD said that 7,500 personnel are needed to maintain Covid related operations, however, this will be kept under review and be increased or decreased as necessary.

Military personnel have been key to the UK’s response building NHS Nightingale Hospitals, transporting supplies of PPE and running mobile testing centres across the UK.