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Lieutenant General John Frewen to head up military taskforce on Coronavirus

Image (Australian Defence force)

Lieutenant General John Frewen has been selected to lead a new taskforce, which has been created by Defence to manage the military’s response to the virus.

Lieutenant General John Frewen has been selected to lead a new taskforce, which has been created by Defence to manage the military’s response to the virus.

LTGEN Frewen has been put in charge of the taskforce set to tackle the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. He has previously commanded Australia's forces in the Middle East, heading up Australia's operations in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2017.

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Usually taskforces regarding natural events such as floods or other natural disasters are headed up by two-star generals, however the appointment of three-star general in LTGEN Frewen indicated a step up from usual practice. 

At this time the Department of Defence has confirmed only three cases of the coronavirus among ADF personnel, with the ABC reporting one is a senior naval officer who recently returned to Australia from south-east Asia.

In a document on its website, the Department of Defence has outlined the measures being taken to prevent any further spread among its ranks. It states:

"Defence is following whole-of-government guidance from the Department of Health in relation to COVID-19. As Defence continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation, our priority is the health and wellbeing of personnel. Each and every one of us can take steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. It is important to remember that for the vast majority of people, the illness will be mild or moderate and individuals will make a full recovery.

"To address the risk of COVID-19 infection within Defence and the general community, all Australian Defence Force, Defence APS and contractors working in Defence establishments who present with cold/flu like symptoms must remove themselves from the workplace and notify their supervisor/Chain of Command.

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"ADF members returning from operations and exercises abroad are subject to all quarantine and protective measures as directed by the Australian Border Force and the Department of Health."

Defence is working with other Commonwealth agencies to ensure a whole of government approach including decisions made on travel and planned events. 

Large Defence gatherings have had to change plans, with the RAAF cancelling a major aviation conference that was due to take place in Canberra on 24-25 March. The Air Power Conference was expected to attract around 1,000 military and aviation industry heavyweights from around the world.

The virus' spread could also cast doubt on Australia's participation in several large-scale international military exercises in coming months.

The international air force exercise Pitch Black, scheduled for July, would involve more than 3,000 military personnel from 13 different countries descending on Darwin for war games.

Australian troops are also due to take part in the world's biggest naval warfare exercise, RIMPAC, which would see 25,000 international troops gather in Hawaii in July.

Lieutenant General John Frewen to head up military taskforce on Coronavirus
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