Medical Service

Coronavirus Pandemic: Aid Mission for Portugal

Coronavirus Pandemic: Aid Mission for Portugal

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On February 3, a Bundeswehr Airbus A400M took off from Wunstorf air base heading for Portugal. There were 26 medical soldiers on board the machine. The team consists of doctors and nurses flying to the country hit by the corona pandemic to carry out their relief work.

The alarm clock rang early. The day started at 4:00 a.m. for the servicewomen and servicemen sent to Portugal in the name of European solidarity. The greetings of the lead unit are written on a white board: "The 1st company of the Rapid Response Unit Medical Service wishes the Portugal unit all the best, lots of success and a safe return home!"

A poster with a greeting message

Goodbye to the comrads

Bundeswehr/Timo Rosenbohm

Tired but cheered up by the greetings, the team left the Evenburg barracks in the East Frisian town of Leer at 5:00 am sharp. The destination is Wunstorf air base, home of Air Transport Wing 62. The air force base near Hannover is also the only stationing location for the Airbus A400M transport aircraft. In addition to the medical staff 26 in total, the transport plane 45 metres in length is also bringing the urgently needed material, such as ventilators, infusion pumps and consumables, to the crisis-ridden country. In Lisbon, the machine is welcomed by the Portuguese Minister of Health and the Minister of Defence.

Health system is at the limit

A man speaks in front of the cameras, an airplane can be seen in the background

Bundeswehr Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ulrich Baumgärtner speaks to media representatives at the Wunstorf air base about the aid provided to Portugal

Bundeswehr/Jane Schmidt

Bundeswehr Chief Medical Officer, senior staff physician Dr. Ulrich Baumgärtner accompanied his soldiers. In a press statement just before the Airbus A400M take-off, the highest-ranking medical officer emphasized the difficult situation in Portugal. The reason for this is also the new British virus variant. The capacities in the hospitals are exhausted. Such assistance is practically in the DNA of the Bundeswehr Medical Service. This is shown by the current corona pandemic where numerous paramedics are deployed in vaccination centres, health authorities or nursing homes, among other things.

As a medical service, it is in our DNA to help where we are needed.

The Bundeswehr paramedics are to support a civilian hospital for three weeks. A hygiene team travelling with you can also support other hospitals if necessary.


On January 25, the Portuguese Minister of Health, Marta Temido, asked the Federal Minister of Defence, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, for help. In view of the dramatic and highly dynamic infection process in her country, the Minister of Health asked for immediate human and material support from Germany.

The EU flag is waving in the wind.

The Member States of the European Union stand together. The Emergency Support Instrument (ESI) provides fundamental assistance when fighting COVID-19Coronavirus Disease 2019.

Bundeswehr/Detmar Modes

Just one day later, a medical reconnaissance team flew to Lisbon. The team spoke to Department of Defense representatives and health officials. With the results of the investigation team, the required help was agreed on across departments and in coordination between the two countries.

Out of the total costs incurred by the Bundeswehr as part of the aid operation, around 2.8 million euros are borne by the Emergency Support Instrument, ESI for short, of the European Union. The emergency aid program can be used by the EU member states if a crisis has reached an exceptional level and there is a risk of far-reaching consequences for the population. 

by Uwe Henning 

BMVgBundesministerium der Verteidigung press release