Interview with Sunrise, Sam Armytage
Topics: ADF assistance to Victoria, COVID-19
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SAM ARMYTAGE: Thank you, Koshi. Now, the Victorian Government has called in the Defence Force and requested help from other states as it deals with its growing coronavirus emergency. A man in his 80’s has died overnight. Another 20 new cases of Covid-19 were recorded yesterday, with long queues at testing centres. To speed up results, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania will provide support. It comes with hundreds of quarantine hotel workers move into self-isolation after at least 33 staff members tested positive.
And we're joined now by the Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds. Minister, good morning and welcome. What help has Victoria requested from the Defence Force?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well, Sam, last night, Defence received a request from the
Victorian Government for assistance with the current COVID-19 outbreak. We've already got a planning team of 30 in place, and we'll be on deck from tomorrow. We're looking to deploy over a thousand of our personnel - roughly 850 to provide planning support and also assistance at the hotel quarantine arrangement, and another 200 logistics and medical personnel to assist with the quarantine – sorry – the testing.
SAM ARMYTAGE: Okay, so in its most basic form, we're providing soldiers to help with the security around hotels in Melbourne to stop the spread. Has Melbourne been having issues obviously with keeping people in their rooms when they fly in from overseas and their quarantining, and our soldiers will now make sure that happens?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well, our soldiers are not law enforcement personnel. What we have been doing for many months now is assisting States and Territories with a wide range of tasks, and one of the tasks has been assisting them at our hotel quarantines to ensure that the discipline is maintained. So they're not security guards or law enforcement, but they are assisting in those locations to ensure that quarantine requirements are met.
SAM ARMYTAGE: OK, so we saw our ADF do a fantastic job over summer with the Bushfires. The ADF personnel have been assisting the COVID-19 response in states like New South Wales so, talk us through what sort of support they're able to provide - you mentioned testing, that's quite interesting. What are they doing there?
MINISTER REYNOLDS: Well, what we're doing is we're not doing the testing ourselves. But what we are doing is, we're going to be assisting the Victorian authorities at their 90 testing sites across the state. We'll provide logistics and also a range of medical staff to actually help speed up the processing time for people getting tested. We're also providing, as I said, support at the quarantine points at the hotels. But around the country, as you've said Sam, we've had thousands of Australian Defence Force personnel, first of all, helping in bushfire affected areas, and that's rolled straight into providing at any one time up to 2,000 Defence personnel doing everything from quarantine checkpoints in Indigenous communities, we've had our wonderful Defence scientists working on converting ventilators, and of course in Victoria we've had at Med-Con our Army engineers helping assist produce three million masks. So we're using our talents in many ways to assist our nation with the COVID-19 response now.
SAM ARMYTAGE: We are so proud of our ADF. They are so beautifully trained and it's wonderful for our country that they can come in and help like this. Some of the Victorian security guards have said that they were working without proper training or protective equipment. How can we protect our ADF personnel during this time? Just in case we need them for other things.
LINDA REYNOLDS: Well, Sam, as you'd expect our ADF are magnificently trained and highly professional, and we've been working on COVID-19 responses here in Australia now since February. So our people are very well trained in all required health protocols, and they have done a magnificent job around the country adhering to those protocols.
SAM ARMYTAGE: Ok Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, thanks for your time today.