Management of a large outbreak of COVID-19 at a British Army training centre: lessons for the future

Matthew Routledge, J. Lyon, C. Vincent, A. Gordon Clarke, K. Shawcross, C. Turpin, H. Cormack, S. C. Robson, A. Beckett, S. Glaysher, K. Cook, C. Fearn, S. Goudarzi, E. J. Hutley, D. Ross

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Abstract

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has posed major challenges for infection control within training centres, both civilian and military. Here we present a narrative review of an outbreak that occurred at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in January-March 2021, in the context of the circulating, highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7.

Methods: Testing for SARS-CoV-2 was performed using a combination of reverse transcriptase PCR and Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs). Testing and isolation procedures were conducted in line with a pre-established symptom stratification system. Genomic sequencing was performed on 10 sample isolates.

Results: By the end of the outbreak, 185 cases (153 Officer Cadets, 32 permanent staff) had contracted confirmed COVID-19. This represented 15% of the total RMAS population. This resulted in 0 deaths and 0 hospitalisations, but due to necessary isolation procedures did represent an estimated 12 959 person-days of lost training. 9 of 10 (90%) of sequenced isolates had a reportable lineage. All of those reported were found to be the Alpha lineage B.1.1.7.

Conclusions: We discuss the key lessons learnt from the after-action review by the Incident Management Team. These include the importance of multidisciplinary working, the utility of sync matrices to monitor outbreaks in real time, issues around Officer Cadets reporting symptoms, timing of high-risk training activities, infrastructure and use of LFDs. COVID-19 represents a vital learning opportunity to minimise the impact of potential future pandemics, which may produce considerably higher morbidity and mortality in military populations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Military Health
Early online date12 Nov 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 12 Nov 2021

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