More than 10,000 British soldiers, sailors and airmen could be put on standby in the coming weeks as the coronavirus crisis worsens.
Officials have been drawing up plans for weeks and are now ready to submit proposals to the prime minister.
The plans, codenamed Operation Broadshare according to army sources, were originally due a few weeks ago but have been delayed so they can be altered to reflect the rapid spread of the virus.
Although Britain’s armed forces are used to helping in times of national emergency, such as flooding or fuel strikes, never have they had to consider so many unknown potential scenarios.
At the extreme end, proposals have even been considered to cope with the breakdown of civil society.