Defence scientists help Britain fight COVID

Scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) are helping government bodies and civilian authorities defend the UK against COVID.

At the end of December, the MoD called on Dstl experts at short notice to provide analytical support for the military and police during the Dover crisis. The experts provided data to create effective COVID testing and queueing strategies that cleared the backlog of lorries and drivers as quickly as possible.

Dstl scientists and technicians have also been supporting the vaccine rollout, creating data science and computing models to enable the NHS IT system to handle the logistics. Challenges tackled include vaccine phasing, regional planning and population estimation.

“It has been a privilege,” says Dstl’s Dr Kit Waterman.

180 Dstl scientists are working on multiple assignments relating to COVID right now, and over 300 Dstl scientists have provided COVID support at  point across hundreds of different areas.

These include helping to keep defence operating by safeguarding supply chains for military equipment and supporting military personnel with following safety guidance, and providing scientific support to government agencies – from the NHS, the Department for Health and Social Care, and Public Health England to the Joint Biosecurity Centre and the Government Office for Science (GO-Science) – to widen their understanding of how COVID spreads.

Dstl chief Gary Aitkenhead says the laboratory is playing a critical part in the national and global effort against COVID.