The Irish Defence Forces have joined the Advisory Board of PANDEM-2, a €10m EU-funded pandemic preparedness and response project coordinated by the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway). This is a significant milestone for the project with the Defence Forces bringing their extensive knowledge and experience in major emergency management to the development of PANDEM-2.
PANDEM-2 aims to strengthen the EU’s response to future pandemics through the development of IT systems, supported by training for pandemic managers. A key objective of the project is to apply learnings from different responses to COVID-19, both in Ireland and in other EU Member States.
100 years on from the establishment of the National Army, the Irish Defence Forces play an integral role within the Irish State’s architecture in responding to major emergencies. In addition to their interagency activities during the COVID-19 response on protection of Ireland’s critical infrastructure, the Irish Defence Forces also had a key role in supporting the HSE in a number of areas including construction and operation of testing centres, patient transport and mass vaccination rollout through the joint task force (JTF). In total, 122,698 personnel were deployed throughout the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The Irish Defence Forces also supported the HSE following the cyberattack in May 2021 which led to additional challenges in the management of the pandemic.
As part of their Advisory Board role, the Irish Defence Forces will participate in a tabletop exercise (TTX) with project partners in Berlin in June 2022. Their participation will bring extensive defence sector experience in drills and exercises as well as knowledge gained during the COVID-19 response. The TTX will take place alongside a number of national public health agencies across Europe in the setting of a Public Health Emergency Operations Centre. The overall aim is to utilise the lessons learnt from COVID-19 to improve future pandemic preparedness in Europe.
Professor Máire Connolly, Coordinator of the PANDEM-2 project, and expert in Global Health at NUI Galway said:
“We are very proud that the Defence Forces have joined the Advisory Board of PANDEM-2. They provided vital support to the Covid-19 response in Ireland bringing logistical, operational and planning experience to a number of key aspects of pandemic management including implementation of the testing, tracing and vaccination programmes, deployment of ambulances and medical staff, non-clinical support in nursing homes, mandatory hotel quarantine, and transportation of PPE. Their invaluable experience will significantly strengthen the project’s outputs and help meet our goal of improving the EU’s response to future pandemics.”
The PANDEM-2 Advisory Board is made up of international experts in the area of pandemic preparedness and response from the WHO, ECDC, and the American Red Cross. The Advisory Board acts as an internal review panel, providing expertise to help guide and inform project outputs to ensure applicability and long-term impact.