The Defence Secretary and Britain’s six most senior military commanders are all self isolating after the head of the Armed Forces tested positive for Covid, The Telegraph can reveal.
General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, entered a 10-day period of isolation late last week after a test indicated he had developed Covid-19, The Ministry of Defence confirmed on Sunday night.
NHS Test & Trace has since ordered Ben Wallace and the heads of the Navy, RAF and Strategic Command to stay at home for the same duration after they came into “close contact” with him at a meeting, according to defence sources.
The head of the Army and Sir Nick’s deputy have spent the weekend in self-isolation awaiting the result of PCR tests, after they attended the same meeting but remained at a physical distance from the Forces chief. It is thought that the pair will each conduct their business remotely on Monday as a precaution.
The development comes after a warning from MPs last week that Nato partners are concerned about British service personnel being deployed overseas without being double vaccinated. The Government has insisted it is right to jab troops in line with their age cohort.
Britain’s top serving general Sir Nick, 62, is understood to have returned a positive test after appearing at the Chalke Valley History Festival in Wiltshire on Friday.
However, it was a meeting that took place the previous day that has caused a headache for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
Sir Nicholas attended a summit with Mr Wallace, 51, the Defence Secretary, and Admiral Sir Tim Fraser, Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham, Oxfordshire, on Thursday.
Also present were General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, 57, Chief of the General Staff; Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, 55, First Sea Lord; Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, 53, Chief of the Air Staff; and General Sir Patrick Sanders, 55, Commander Strategic Command.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston
General Sir Patrick Sanders, Commander Strategic Command
It is understood that social distancing measures were maintained at the forum, which was a periodical high-level meeting.
However, Mr Wallace and Sir Tony, Sir Mike and Sir Patrick came into close contact with Sir Nick and are having to self isolate for 10 days as a result.
Meanwhile Sir Tim and Sir Mark did not come into near physical proximity with Sir Nick during the roundtable, or have one-on-one sessions with him, so are not deemed to have been close contacts.
General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith
Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS
All those affected are expected to conduct their business remotely while isolating, although one insider warned that military discussions of sensitive material would have to wait for rescheduled, in-person meetings as home-based virtual platforms were too insecure.
A Defence source said “there are going to be a lot of diaries disrupted” as site visits and physical meetings are “organised weeks in advance”.
The insider added: “It’s going to need quite a bit of readjustment at the top of Defence in coming days.
“But the outer offices will be very happy, because any chief stuck in self isolation will be able to catch up on all their outstanding paperwork.”
A military source said the situation was a “nuisance”, but added: “It’s about doing things properly and it’s what we all have to get used to while learning to live with coronavirus.”
An MoD spokesman said: “The Chief of the Defence Staff has tested positive during routine Covid-19 checks. Colleagues who were in a senior meeting with him last week, including the Secretary of State, are self-isolating in line with government guidelines.”
At the Chalke Valley History Festival, Sir Nick warned that a “miscalculation” in the cat and mouse game with Russia could erupt into full blown war.
He admitted he was kept “awake at night” by the risk of an “unwarranted escalation” involving Britain.
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