The UK is deploying a 200-strong cadre of military personnel - including 40 doctors - to aid hospitals in London as the omicron surge has left too many staffers unable to work in Britain's most densely populated city.
40 of the 200 are doctors, while the other 160 personnel, who have no medical training, will check in patients, ensure stocks are maintained and will also be "conducting basic checks", according to the Ministry of Defence.
They are expected to continue working with the NHS at least through the end of the month, if not longer. And some have already started.
Just two days ago, PM Boris Johnson said he hopes to "ride out" the current COVID surge without any lockdowns or other restrictions on the public. But the deployment of the military doctors and other personnel would help alleviate the NHS's struggles, as the public health system is "temporarily overwhelmed" by omicron.
Previously, we reported that the NHS was building field hospitals to help deal with the surge in patients across England. However, the situation has grown particularly acute in London, where thousands of NHS staff have been off work each week. Last month became the first part of the country to see a huge wave of COVID cases caused by the new strain, leaving hospitals struggling to cope with unprecedented staffing shortages.
One NHS third party provider who spoke with the Guardian said he welcomed the additional personnel, but said that their arrival underlined the severity of the NHS's problems.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of hospitals group NHS Providers, welcomed the assistance from personnel from what is thought to be all three armed forces. But he said that their arrival underlined the extent of NHS understaffing.
"Trust leaders will welcome the support of colleagues from the armed forces during what continues to be an incredibly challenging time for the NHS in London."
"The fact that we need to call upon army medics and general duty personnel at all underlines the sheer scale of the workforce challenges the NHS is facing."
"The experience of the pandemic makes plain underlying issues which need resolution – the need for a national long-term plan for the health and care workforce, ongoing challenges with vacancies and recruitment pre-dating the pandemic by a number of years."
The decision to send in the military comes after the UK reported 179,756 new COVID cases on Thursday alone, with the number of people infected with the Omicron variant continuing to increase rapidly. Deaths have ticked higher in recent weeks, but only slightly.
Military personnel have helped out in hospitals during earlier waves of the pandemic, and they continue to aide the ambulance services in Wales and Scotland while also helping out with the booster program. However, some organizations - including the Royal College of Nursing - have raised questions about whether the military personnel being deployed to London have the necessary skills.