RETIRED army personnel will not be deployed en masse to help deal with the coronavirus, a Somerset MP has pledged.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed the nation on Monday evening (March 23), putting tougher measures in place to restrict citizens’ movement and stop the virus from spreading.

Mr Johnson said the police would be given new powers to enforce these restrictions, including fines for those gathering in groups larger than two.

But Wells MP James Heappey said there were currently no plans to call up retired members of the army to assist the police.

Mr Heappey, the parliamentary under-secretary for defence, gave the assurance on Monday (March 23) in response to a question from Carol Monaghan, the SNP’s shadow spokeswoman for the armed forces and veterans.

Ms Monaghan asked whether “retired armed forces personnel can volunteer to assist” with the response to the virus.

Mr Heappey responded individuals were free to volunteer but there were no plans to compel them to do so at this time.

He said: “Where retired armed forces personnel are members of the ex-regular reserve, they have a legal liability for service if so required.

“Such personnel may volunteer to assist with the response to the outbreak, in the same way that they may volunteer to assist with any other military activity.

“However, there are currently no plans for any large-scale deployments of ex-regular reservists.”