Coronavirus: Nato to begin stockpiling medical equipment

Military alliance increases preparations to help civilians in any second wave of outbreaks

epa08492935 Afghan hospital staff unload dental medical equipment donated by NATO's forces to district hospital in Herat, Afghanistan, 18 June 2020.  EPA/JALIL REZAYEE
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Nato has announced that it will build a substantial stockpile of medical equipment and supplies to battle any second wave of coronavirus.

It also warned that some states were using social media to present false information about the pandemic.

The meeting of 30 member states on Thursday announced a three-point approach to dealing with a new outbreak.

It consisted of a new operations plan to deal with another pandemic, a donor fund and building a reserve of protective equipment and medical supplies.

“We stand ready to support each other, should a second wave of the pandemic strike, to reduce suffering and to save lives,” Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

epa08490694 NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg speaks as he chairs a NATO defense ministers meeting via teleconference at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 17 June 2020.  EPA/FRANCOIS LENOIR / POOL
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said his organisation was preparing for a second wave of virus outbreaks. EPA

Nato forces will also be on standby to play a key role in supporting civilians if a new outbreak were to occur.

Helicopters and planes will be available to move essential medical supplies and carry patients, and engineers will be ready to build field hospitals.

“Medical authorities around the world have warned that we could see a second wave in the pandemic, so Nato is preparing to provide strong support to civilian efforts if that happens,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“We have taken all the necessary measures to ensure our forces remain ready, vigilant and prepared to respond to any threat because it is essential that this health crisis does not become a security crisis.”

As a sign of “solidarity and unity”, he called on allies to provide funds and donate medical equipment to the stockpile.

Nato will also ensure that national infrastructure such as transport, energy and communications are resilient in a crisis.

Mr Stoltenberg said the alliance would update its guidelines on the “consequences of foreign ownership and control” when it came to contracting from sensitive defence and security companies.

He was hinting at action taken against Chinese telecoms company Huawei.

Mr Stoltenberg also said there had been considerable disinformation over the causes of the pandemic and it was up to the free press to ensure accountability.

“There are many examples of state actors and non-state actors using the crises to divide allies and undermine trust in our democratic institutions,” he said.

“We have seen efforts to try to blame Nato allies for the whole pandemic. We have seen that on social media.

“We are responding to propaganda and disinformation by helping allies to get the facts.”

Mr Stoltenberg said that eventually the “truth will prevail”, and it was vital for the media to obtain “correct information in times of crisis”.