Invoke NATO alliance to airlift PPE, says Labour

Invoke NATO military alliance to airlift PPE and testing supplies for coronavirus response, says Labour

  • Shadow defence secretary John Healey says NATO should play bigger role
  • Mr Healey is calling on ministers to put the alliance at the heart of global efforts
  • Wants to make better use of NATO’s rapid airlift capability to move key supplies 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Ministers should call on the NATO military alliance to use its resources to airlift PPE and testing supplies to areas with shortages during the coronavirus outbreak, shadow defence secretary John Healey has said. 

The Labour frontbencher said giving NATO a bigger role in battling the disease could prove vital in the coming months as countries try to avoid a second wave of infections. 

He said putting greater NATO cooperation ‘at the heart of our international response’ would be ‘good for Britain and good for our closest allies too’. 

His comments represent a dramatic shift in Labour’s approach to the organisation which was distinctly cool during Jeremy Corbyn’s time as party leader, with the veteran left-winger having spoken out against it on numerous occasions.

Labour frontbencher said giving NATO a bigger role in battling the disease could prove vital in the coming months. Pictured, PPEsupplies are loaded on to an RAF plane last month

NATO has already been involved in delivering vital help in the fight against coronavirus. 

But Mr Healey believes this could go further – especially as the world tries to suppress and then keep the disease under control. 

Mr Healey said greater use could be made of NATO’s ‘Rapid Air Mobility’ process in order to quickly airlift vital supplies and resources to areas which have the greatest need. 

He also believes resource-sharing needs to be stepped up between the alliance’s allies to alleviate shortages of PPE and testing kits wherever they may arise. 

Mr Healey, who was made shadow defence secretary when Sir Keir Starmer became Labour leader, said: ‘Coronavirus doesn’t respect national borders. Our response to coronavirus must be international too.

‘Our NATO allies are facing the same challenges we are, and by stepping up our joint work with other countries, we can get the equipment and manpower to where it’s needed most.

‘UK Government Ministers should put NATO co-operation at the heart of our international response to coronavirus. 

‘It’s good for Britain, and good for our closest allies too.’

Labour wants the UK government to take the lead in arguing for NATO to step up its work in fighting coronavirus. 

The party believes that unless all countries keep coronavirus under control in the coming months the UK will run the risk of importing fresh cases even when it has suppressed the outbreak domestically. 

The armed forces in the UK have played a key role domestically during the outbreak, with Ministry of Defence logistics experts helping local areas to make sure supplies get to where they need to go. 

Armed forces personnel have also played a very visible role at the nation’s drive-through testing centres, administering swab tests to essential workers.  

Mr Healey’s comments represent something of a new dawn in terms of Labour’s approach to NATO. 

The party’s former foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, was a driving force behind setting up the alliance. 

But relations were strained during Mr Corbyn’s tenure as leader due to him having previously called for NATO to be disbanded. 

John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, is urging the government to ask NATO to step up its response to coronavirus

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