I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 46 together.
Whilst the Defence Forces are not a primary response agency for non-security related emergencies, as defined in the Framework for Major Emergency Management, they provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate Lead Department in the event of a natural disaster or emergency situation in its Aid to Civil Authority (ATCA) role. In this regard, the full spectrum of Defence Forces personnel and equipment, commensurate with operational requirements, is made available for deployments, within current means and capabilities, as the need arises.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Joint Task Force was established to coordinate the Defence Forces contribution to the whole-of-Government COVID-19 response. It has the authority to draw together, in a joint manner, the contribution of all of the elements of the Defence Forces – Army, Air Corps, Naval Service, Reserve, etc. This was provided for in a Defence Forces Regulation signed by and under the authority of the Minister for Defence.
The Defence Forces Joint Task Force is based in McKee Barracks and its priority from the beginning has been to provide support to the HSE, while retaining, at all times, a contingent capacity to provide Aid to the Civil Power support.
The Defence Forces has provided a wide range of supports to the HSE, as coordinated by the Joint Task Force as part of the national response to Covid 19. As the vaccine programme is rolled out the main effort and focus of Defence Forces assistance to the HSE has shifted from test and trace supports to the national vaccination programme and to supporting the mandatory hotel quarantine system.
In terms of the national vaccination programme, the Defence Forces are represented on the High Level Task Force for Covid-19 Vaccination, providing planning advice and staffing support to the Vaccine Supply Chain and Logistics work stream.
At the present time, the Defence Forces deploy approximately 75 personnel on a daily basis to support the HSE National Vaccination Programme. This support includes the provision of vaccinators through Defence Forces medical staff (Doctors, Advanced Paramedics, Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians). This also includes Defence Forces personnel providing assistance across 9 vaccination sites in the area of site management, administrative and logistical support.
In addition through the Joint Task Force, the Defence Forces continues to support the rollout of the vaccination programme through secure storage supports; transportation of vaccinators in adverse weather conditions; transportation of vaccines, consumables and vaccinators by air at the request of the National Ambulance Service.