Record COVID troops deployment as Victoria demands help
Exclusive: Australia will deploy more troops to Melbourne for hotel duty from this week - surpassing the number sent to any state including during the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the troops are coming from the Army's 3rd Brigade in Townsville, including some of whom had only just returned from duties in the Middle East, but also personnel from other naval and air bases.
The national co-ordination is being controlled from a war room created specifically for the operation out of Randwick Barracks in Sydney and comes as more states look to increase military commitments as the Federal Government confirms a rolling increase in international air travel arrival flights.
The ADF is also prepping to play a pivotal role in COVID-19 vaccinations roll-out - the biggest single military logistic plan in ADF history.
The number of ADF troops on quarantine compliance hotel duties, including floor monitors and escorts, will more than double from 206 to 430 personnel after a late request from Premier Dan Andrews in a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The Victorian Government had been bemoaning how more ADF troops had been deployed to NSW than their state to assist in containing arrivals and contact tracing for COVID-19 infections and requested 200 additional troops which have now been approved.
By the end of the week there will be 430 ADF personnel on hotel duty alone with another 65 others deployed to various logistic, liaison and secondments to State emergency roles.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said she could not be any prouder of the men and women from the ADF who have responded to the pandemic and their families for putting up with their absence.
"The arrival of the additional personnel over coming weeks will see the ADF commitment to hotel quarantine in Victoria increase to about 440, at up to 22 hotels," Senator Reynolds told News Corp Australia..
"This increase will mean that support to hotel quarantine in Victoria will be the largest activity currently being supported by the ADF through Operation COVID-19 Assist across the country."
But it is about to get a lot busier with not only the government's approval for more capacity to allow Australians abroad to return home occurring now, with NSW requesting more military assistance to cope with the influx, but planning well underway for the ADF to have a central role in vaccination rollouts from next month.
Contingency planning is also underway for Prime Minister Scott Morrison's "Pacific bubble" proposal with island nations.
Just what those plans are have yet to be confirmed but will include transport, logistics and escort duties of the precious cargo; ADF medical teams could also be involved in handling and dispensing the vaccines.
The total number of ADF deployments for Operation COVID-19 Assist will be more than 1500 personnel; at its peak in September last year the ADF had 3000 personnel on coronavirus duties at any one time. In total, the ADF had 11,000 deployments for the pandemic operating on 70 different civilian tasks.
Originally published as Record COVID troops deployment as Victoria demands help