The Premier and myself will have welcomed today a ‘Security Assistance Team’ arriving from the United Kingdom. At around 20, it’s a multi-disciplinary, multi-department effort that draws heavily on 3 Commando Brigade. Commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel, it has a skill set that includes: a doctor, medical planners, logisticians, military police and security planners.
The team bring with them our military’s experience of supporting the UK’s National Health Service during this period – which has been extraordinarily important to the UK response – and therefore brings welcome relevant experience onto the Islands.
TCI is the first Overseas Territory to receive such a team and this is a reflection of the number of overlapping challenges we face here, from both COVID19 and from illegal migration. The skill set that the Royal Marines bring with them, to both land and maritime operations, and the military’s links to the UK’s health response, makes this team a particularly welcome member of the wider national security team and medical effort.
The team will follow the advice of our Chief Medical Officer, and also the letter of the Emergency Regulations, and the visiting military team will be quarantined for 14 days. During that time, they will be able to connect remotely to a full range of stakeholders in TCI so they can build understanding and context as they wait. The public will see them out and about in two weeks-time.
Separately, the public will recall we announced that we were recruiting the new Commanding Officer of the TCI Regiment. Applications have been received. The appointment will take place during this period so our Commanding Officer can build valuable bridges with 3 Commando Brigade which will pay dividends long in the future. The team, while here can also help advise us on the setting up of our own regiment that will have a very strong maritime role, for very obvious reasons.
HMS Medway, is a very capable patrol vessel, who recently visited TCI and is in the region. She is now well practiced in working with our maritime police. The Royal Marines and HMS Medway report to the same headquarters in the UK which brings coherence.
When UK naval assets – which are now forming into a task force in the Caribbean – patrol – it’s worth saying that it’s part of a wider international effort that includes US maritime and air assets, and assets from the Bahamas. Our police plane also docks into this effort with our maritime police and radar providing the final line of protection. All of us know how extraordinarily hard the Marine Branch has been working recently and it’s worth saying they are overwhelmingly successful – hence the numbers we are presently deporting; 225 yesterday.
Serious crime was an issue on the Islands before this period of lockdown and looking to the future we do not imagine for one moment that we will not face similar challenges in the near future. The lockdown and curfew period has though offered a welcome respite from this menace. The team therefore includes two UK Home Office Advisors who can work with the TCI Police Executive.
The public might recall that just before the lockdown the Premier and myself announced a jointly funded TCIG and UK uplift – for the next year – to our police’s hard-edged Tactical Unit. This will double its size. Despite the pandemic that work progresses, recruitment is taking place.
Moving back to maritime support, given that the region could face two concurrent disasters – pandemic and hurricane – the Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship, RFA Argus, is now deploying to the Caribbean to offer the Overseas Territories support during the upcoming hurricane season as well as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She sailed on 2 April to cross the Atlantic and she has the capability to receive casualties and a medical team can join the ship, from the UK, if required and once it is in the region.
As well as having a casualty capability she is also carrying aid from the Department for International Development to provide water and ration packs where needed post any hurricane. Plus, materials to repair damage and clear blocked roads in support of local emergency services.
Deploying onboard RFA Argus are Royal Marines, Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary sailors. In addition, a Wildcat helicopter and 3 Merlin Helicopters with pilots, aircrew and engineering support are also embarked.
The Minister of Health is best placed to cover – amongst all the procurement efforts his Ministry is making – the equipment the UK is providing in terms of practical medical support. But in terms of completeness, in support of the Health Ministry’s work, Personal Protection Equipment and a significant number of tests kits will arrive from the UK this week with more to follow. The first batch are presently in-transit.
The critical on-Island testing equipment (which has been extremely hard to procure globally) is on order by the UK, on our behalf, and will arrive as it comes off the production line. We are also in detailed discussions with the UK about providing people who can support medical delivery here.
In terms though of the arrival of the Security Assistance Team today, I hope this news reassures. It’s a significant uplift in our capability on the Islands to deal with these extraordinary events. With this team and with Royal Marines on the Island, the UK – and all it offers – will I hope feel much closer. The Premier and myself thank the team for leaving their homes – and their families – to come and support ours.
Stay safe TCI – thank you for doing all you are to keep yourself, your family, your community and your Islands safe. We are getting there, and we are getting there together.