Quarantine and testing guidance have been put in place for those forced to undertake essential travel; this minimises the possibility of a staff member infecting anyone upon return. Official travel has been restricted to those conducting mission-essential work only, whilst visits to the HQs have been seriously curtailed and are also subject to the ‘mission-essential’ caveat.
Recently a rapid testing process has been established at JFCBS to ensure that the most critical tasks can be sustained. Commercial testing has also been made available, upon request, to all NATO personnel at JFCBS who require proof of test for personal or mission essential travel, at a small charge.
Within the HQs itself, a number of changes have been made to the working environment. Office spaces have been reconfigured to minimise pandemic-related risks and, in parallel, extensive efforts have been made to allow as many staff as possible to work from home. As you might expect, hand sanitiser is readily available for all to use as they move around the HQs. Perspex dividers have been issued. Conference rooms have been provided with attendance ceilings, dependent on size; these are rigidly enforced. And, where possible, doors within the HQs are kept permanently open to minimise the risk of viral transmission from commonly touched surfaces, whilst continuing to adhere to fire regulations. Internal protective measures also include video transmission instead of physical attendance for routine conferences, wherever possible.
All JFCBS personnel have been provided with medical masks - the wearing of masks is mandatory when moving throughout the HQs. They can only be removed when sitting at work-stations, or attending meetings in conference rooms, where a minimum 1.5 metre social distancing can be achieved; but, even when these conditions are met, it remains the decision of the individual whether to remove the mask or not.
A campaign to encourage flu vaccinations has been undertaken with the aim to minimise the annual spike in influenza cases and minimise the number of symptomatic persons. Working hours have been extended and staggered to minimise staff contact on entering or exiting the HQs.
COVID-19 continues to present unprecedented challenges to us all. Striking the right balance between personnel safety and the sustainment of military capability is delicate. Pandemic-related measures taken at JFCBS are, of course, compliant with host nation guidance and regulation but, where appropriate, are even more restrictive than those appertaining to the general public. Steps taken to date have proven successful but remain under constant revision to ensure their currency.
Story by Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum Public Affairs Office