On 19th March, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) President Attila Mesterhazy (Hungary) issued an official statement on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Mr Mesterhazy said that “the key to overcoming this crisis lies in each and every one of us acting responsibly and caring for others as well as for themselves”.
The virus has hit NATO’s ranks, with three staff member at NATO’s Brussels headquarters testing positive during March. Prior to the positive tests, NATO had taken preventative measures including suspending some staff travel, facilitating staff to work from home, and suspending group visits to NATO HQ.
NATO has also been called to support member states struggling with the impact of the virus. On 24th March, NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center (EADRCC) “received a request for international humanitarian assistance from the Armed Forces of Spain in their response to the global pandemic” according to a NATO press release.
Spain was acting over concerns the virus could spread within its armed forces as well as in its civilian population, where the spread of the virus has this week overtaken that seen in Italy.
On the night of 24th-25th March, NATO also provided support to the Czech Republic in its efforts to combat the pandemic. An AN-124 plane landed in the Czech city of Pardubice, enabled by the country’s participation in the NATO-managed Strategic Airlift International Solution, which offers participants access to heavy transport aircraft.
The plane flew from Shenzhen, China carrying over 100 tons of equipment, including millions of facemasks, goggles and protective suits. This was the airlift to the Czech Republic with more medical support for the Czech Republic and Slovakia planned for the coming days.
The plan is known as the Strategic Airlift International Solution, or SALIS, Nine NATO Allies (Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) currently participate in the programme, which is managed by the NATO Support and Procurement Agency.