Defence sends medics and engineers to combat coronavirus outbreak


Discussions are also taking place for engineers and other specialist staff within the ADF to help establish pop-up fever clinics.

The ADF has appointed three-star general John Frewen to head a new taskforce to lead the military’s response to the pandemic.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the military was closely monitoring the situation and stood ready to provide further support “if requested”.

“Defence is fully engaged with the Whole-of-Government response to COVID-19 which includes continuing to provide ongoing support across Commonwealth and state governments,” she said.

“We are closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation and remain focused on contingency planning, protecting Defence personnel to minimise the burden on public health capacity and mitigating the risk to operations.

“Defence continues to follow the advice of Australian health authorities and stands ready to provide further support if requested.”

Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen on Wednesday called for the ADF to be deployed to help set up the 100 fever clinics announced by the Morrison government last week.

The clinics – which are dedicated facilities to assess, test and treat people – may not be up and running until May. State governments have already begun establishing their own fever clinics.

Mr Bowen criticised the delay in opening the clinics, saying it was moving “too slow”.

“We need the fever clinics up and running, even if they’re not actively being used straightaway,” he said.

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“We need them up and running if and when they’re necessary. This is a national emergency and it needs all the resources of the country applied to it.

“Hence, we are suggesting that the ADF, our military capacity be deployed, where appropriate, to help the fever clinics open as soon as possible, whether it is the engineering call or the medicos and medics in the army and across the ADF. Please consider using the ADF as a matter of urgency to assist the respiratory clinics to be opened as soon as possible.”

Britain’s armed forces are preparing to embed thousands military paramedics into public hospitals to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

Australia could also send its defence paramedics into hospitals, but the majority of doctors within the ADF are reservists who are already working in hospitals and medical clinics on the frontline.

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