The Defence COVID-19 Task Force is redeploying personnel after ending its support to border control checkpoints in Queensland and Western Australia.
Commander of the Defence COVID-19 Task Force, Lieutenant General John Frewen has shifted the focus of the unit, established over six weeks to support the country’s response to the pandemic.
According to LTGEN Frewen, the unit’s focus will now turn to preparation for the high-risk weather season.
"In the past few weeks, Defence has been reviewing our ability to sustain operations into the new year,” he said.
“As we enter the high-risk weather season, it’s important that we focus on preparing our enterprise and our people to respond to the highest national priorities.
"We saw last year how important the ADF was in responses to natural disasters such as the Townsville floods and the devastating bushfire season. We must be prepared to answer the call again should the states and territories request our assistance, and do it in a COVID-19 environment."
This comes after Defence ended its support to border control checkpoints in Queensland and Western Australia, and informed NSW and South Australian authorities and agencies of its intent to roll back support of their border measures.
However, the ADF will continue to support the states' mandatory quarantine arrangements to help prevent community transmission.
"As always, if there is an urgent need and no local solution available, Defence is prepared to respond to requests for assistance,” LTGEN Frewen added.
“However, this must be balanced with our other urgent national priorities.”
He continued, "During the pandemic, we have built or maintained excellent relationships with state and territory governments and authorities. That means we can continue those conversations more easily and quickly should the need arise.
"COVID-19 won’t be the only thing to challenge us in the next few months, so the task force is in the best position to help when needed."
The commander also stressed that the safety and wellbeing of Defence personnel during the pandemic would continue to be the “highest priority”.
"COVID-19 won’t be the only thing to challenge us in the next few months, so the task force is in the best position to help when needed,” he said.
At present, Defence has recorded just one active case of COVID-19, which LTGEN Frewen said was a testament to the organisation’s management of the crisis.
"More broadly, as restrictions around Australia change, we are encouraging our people to return to the workplace as circumstances permit. Of course, some of our work can only be performed at a Defence site. However, everyone at Defence is encouraged to speak to their commander or manager about their working arrangements," he said.
LTGEN Frewen also lauded the efforts of personnel deployed on Operation COVID-19 Assist, particularly in response to the second wave in Melbourne.
"There was a surge in our support to the COVID-19 response in Victoria that, at its peak, saw about 2,000 personnel deployed to that state alone," he said.
"Our contributions there have been critical to the whole-of-government response. Our medical testing personnel helped perform more than 250,000 COVID-19 tests, we’ve supported police at checkpoints and taken part in vital community engagement, among many other tasks.
"Progress in Victoria is promising but we must remain cautious and vigilant as COVID-19 can very quickly re-surge."