EXCLUSIVE: Fury over Covid outbreak at Sandhurst as 50 recruits – including member of Qatari royal family – catch virus after officer cadets flouted social distancing during alcohol-fuelled bash
- Nearly 50 positive cases among 750 trainees at Sandhurst Military Academy
- Outbreak thought to be caused by recruits dining and socialising together
- Recruits now banned from using gym, taking unsupervised exercise or smoking breaks, and saying hello to friends or family at gates
Sandhurst has been hit by a mass outbreak of Covid-19 after officer cadets breached social distancing rules, the Mail can reveal.
Nearly 50 positive cases have been recorded among the 750 trainees – including a member of the Qatari royal family – at the prestigious academy, which trains the cream of the UK’s military talent and was attended by Princes William and Harry.
The outbreak is thought to have been caused by recruits dining and socialising together even though they were in different work ‘bubbles’, leaving commanders furious.
Now the recruits have been banned from using the gym, taking any unsupervised exercise or smoking breaks, saying hello to friends or family at the academy’s gates or consuming alcohol.
Nearly 50 positive cases have been recorded among the 750 trainees at the prestigious academy, which trains the cream of the UK’s military talent and was attended by Princes William and Harry
Crucial military exercises have also been cancelled and some officer cadets face not completing their courses and may be prevented from joining their regiments unless the outbreak is curtailed.
A member of the Qatari royal family who is seeking to graduate as an overseas officer cadet is among those struck down by the virus at the Berkshire academy. Four members of staff have also tested positive.
Lieutenant Colonel James Lane, commander of Sandhurst’s New College, told cadets they faced severe punishment if they breached the new rules.
He said: ‘Due to a failure of adherence to FHPI (forces health protection instructions) and with numerous platoons affected by the current mass outbreak within the academy, the below orders are to be enacted to protect officer cadets, staff, families and contractors and are designed to break the current cycle of spread.
‘Action will be taken against any staff or cadets who do not adhere to these measures. The standard punishment for an officer cadet who transgresses is to be three work parades and for a member of staff three additional duties.
Now the recruits have been banned from using the gym, taking any unsupervised exercise or smoking breaks, saying hello to friends or family at the academy’s gates or consuming alcohol. Pictured: Prince Charles inspects the Officer Cadets during the Sovereign’s Parade
‘Those in isolation must not enter the dining room. This must be made clear to all to ensure everyone understands the potential catastrophic consequences of this irresponsible action.
‘The following are to be implemented with immediate effect: Exercise Allenby’s Advance, cancelled. Colleges are out of bounds to all except those who work in them.
‘All interaction between officer cadets and friends and family at the academy gates is to cease. Gyms are to shut. Alcohol is not to be consumed by officer cadets, irrespective of isolation or quarantine status. We are now dry.’
The outbreak has also affected food supplies at Sandhurst. But when trainees asked for takeaway pizzas to be ordered on their behalf, Lt Col Lane said: ‘Sadly, college funds do not extend to the purchase of pizzas for all those now in isolation or quarantine.’
The cancellation of the week-long Exercise Allenby’s Advance is significant. It had been due to take place in Brecon, mid-Wales, and was an opportunity for officer cadets to learn infantry training skills, ambushes, reconnaissance patrols and night raids.
The mass outbreak comes after dozens of Sandhurst cadets were disciplined for breaking coronavirus rules by holding an alcohol-fuelled party.
Up to 50 trainee officers went on a drunken spree in the Old College, which faces the famous parade ground where graduates take part in the passing-out ceremony.
They got drunk, ignored social distancing rules and smashed a television. The most serious offenders were punished with 5am room inspections and extra cleaning duties.
Sandhurst was established in 1812 and former cadets also include Sir Winston Churchill.
The Ministry of Defence said last night: ‘We have taken decisive action to put in place additional measures following an increase in positive Covid-19 tests and isolations at Sandhurst.
‘By acting swiftly we expect these measures will stop the spread of the virus and safeguard critical training. We take the health and wellbeing our of personnel very seriously.’