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European RoyalsSpain

King Felipe VI visits Operations Command to thank Spain’s Armed Forces for help with the coronavirus crisis


King Felipe VI honoured the efforts of Spain’s Armed Forces to keep the nation safe from Covid-19 on Friday when he visited Operations Command at Retamares Base in Pozuelo de Alarcón, Madrid.

The Spanish king, wearing army fatigues, a mask, and gloves, was accompanied by the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles and the Chief of Defense Staff, General of the Air, Miguel Ángel Villarroya. He took part in presentations and video conferences to learn more about what is being done to protect Spanish citizens during what is being called “Operation Balmis.”

Casa Real said the mission to fight Covid-19 was given the name Balmis “as a tribute to the humanitarian expedition led by Francisco Javier Balmis between 1803 and 1806, a military doctor who brought the smallpox vaccine to the territories of the Spanish empire in America and the Philippines.”

King Felipe was received by the Chief of Defense Staff, General of the Air Miguel Ángel Villarroya, and by the Commander of the Operations Command, Lieutenant General Fernando López del Pozo, along with the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles. ©CASA DE SM EL REY 

The King participated in video conferences with the five commands that are involved in Operation Balmis, learning about what is being done at Terrestrial Component Command at the Army Army Headquarters in Madrid; Naval Component Command at the Rota Air Base in Cádiz; Air Component Command at the Torrejón de Ardoz Air Base in Madrid; Emergency Command at the Torrejón de Ardoz Air Base in Madrid; and Inspector General of Defense Health at the Gómez Ulla Central Defense Hospital in Madrid.

Operation Balmis began on March 15 and 2,500 troops have been deployed in 172 cities throughout Spain with personnel from the Spanish Army, Navy, Air Force, Military Emergency Unit and Royal Guard participating in the efforts.

“The actions that are being carried out are mainly related to the disinfection of critical infrastructures (ports, airports and stations), sanitary facilities and dependencies both of the State Security Forces and Bodies and of other essential public services, in addition to support in the installation of field hospitals, support actions to transport various materials to places and health care facilities,” Casa Real said. “Especially relevant is the effort made in disinfecting more than 130 nursing homes and transferring the sick and elderly from hospitals to hospitalized hotels.”

The King’s speech can be heard in a video shared by Casa Real on their Twitter account.

His address reads:

“I take advantage of this moment to collectively transmit, to all those involved in Operation Balmis to the Armed Forces as a whole, a message of support and gratitude. And with pride. Given what is a very important contribution in a time of need and national emergency.

Although, the conventional thing in your own preparation and planning is not to attend to a health crisis, you are as you know well prepared and ready to serve anywhere, anytime that is necessary and always with that vocation and dedication that makes you be in places of the greatest risk and fatigue.

At a time when the first line of battle – as we are saying – the first line of defense is health, our health workers are directing it and all the environment that supports them, the Armed Forces and the State Security Forces and Bodies and many state services, you are making an effort to support them, to make them more effective. So that they fulfill their main mission, which is to save lives, care for the sick and alleviate this situation of sanitary urgency, of sanitary emergency.”

Over 10,000 people have now lost their lives to Covid-19 in Spain.

About author

Kristin is Chief Reporter for Royal Central and has been following the British royal family for more than 30 years. Kristin has appeared in UK and U.S. media outlets discussing the British royals including BBC Breakfast, BBC World News, Sky News, the Associated Press, TIME, The Washington Post, and many others.