German army offers 10,000 soldiers to help virus fight
Germany’s defence minister on Wednesday offered up to 10,000 soldiers to help carry out coronavirus tests in care homes as the country continues to struggle with high infection numbers.
“The Bundeswehr is ready to assist at short notice with up to 10,000 men and women in old people’s homes and nursing homes if we are called upon,” a spokesman for Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told AFP.
The soldiers would be able to receive training from manufacturers in how to carry out rapid tests, easing the pressure on care home staff and helping to protect those deemed most at risk from the virus, the spokesman said.
“It is the most vulnerable in the pandemic who need our help now,” he said.
It will be up to local authorities to decide whether and how to take advantage of the offer.
Some 1,156 Bundeswehr soldiers are already helping out in 267 care homes, according to the defence ministry.
The army has made 20,000 soldiers available to help in the fight against the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, but so far work has been found for only around 8,000 of them.
Germany began vaccinating citizens against Covid-19 in late December, with care home residents among the first in the queue.
A total of 758,093 people had received their first jab by Wednesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) disease control centre.
Around 366,000 of them are health workers —
such as doctors, nurses and care home staff — in regular contact with vulnerable people.
Around 285,000 care home residents have been vaccinated so far.
Germany reported 19,600 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours on Wednesday and 1,060 deaths, according to the RKI.