'Coronavirus outbreak hits Harrogate Army Foundation College'

A coronavirus outbreak has occurred at the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, the Labour Party has said.
Army Foundation College in Harrogate in August 2020. Picture: James Hardisty.Army Foundation College in Harrogate in August 2020. Picture: James Hardisty.
Army Foundation College in Harrogate in August 2020. Picture: James Hardisty.

Shadow Armed Forces Minister Stephen Morgan has sought assurances from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace that trainees and staff at the college will be protected following what the party called a "significant outbreak".

Labour believed there to be more than 100 cases but the Ministry of Defence says it is fewer than 40 who are self-isolating after a positive result.

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In his letter to the Defence Secretary, Mr Morgan said: “I understand that there are now more than 100 confirmed cases at the site, with the total continuing to rise rapidly.

"Many are reportedly isolating on site in a ‘COVID village’ which is now full.”

Labour said that in a "further concerning development", 300 of those who have completed their training could leave the site to join units deployed across the country and around the world, with a decision about that to be made on February 1.

Mr Morgan urged Wallace to “take the necessary steps to maintain the safety of troops supporting frontline efforts to tackle the virus and those deployed abroad".

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The General Secretary of UNISON, Christina McAnea, has also written to the Defence Secretary to raise similar concerns on behalf of Compass staff working at the site in departments such as catering, demanding a response by today.

Mr Morgan added: “The Government has a moral duty to protect those who are protecting us, and to set the highest standards in COVID safety across the Defence estate.

"The Defence Secretary must reassure staff and trainees onsite that it will deliver on this responsibility, take the necessary steps to contain the outbreak and protect our armed forces.”

An MOD spokeswoman said: “Fewer than 40 personnel at the Army Foundation College are isolating after testing positive for Covid-19. None of these individuals currently require medical treatment and it is incorrect to suggest we are not coping with the situation.

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“The British Army takes the health and wellbeing of our personnel very seriously and have been providing lateral flow testing, robust social distancing and hygiene measures in place to protect personnel and prevent further infections.”

The Army Foundation College is the only Junior Entry Phase 1 training establishment in the British Army and plays a vital role in providing the basic military training and developing future leadership.