Defence records fifth COVID-19 case

Defence has updated its COVID-19 running total to reflect that it is now dealing with five confirmed cases of the disease – but has changed its reporting protocol to give zero details surrounding new cases or what they are doing about them.

The first two ADF cases were reported on 9 March, giving details of where the pair had been, what Defence was doing to trace their movements and who they may have been in contact with, specifically around Russell Offices in Canberra.

A third case was added to the running total on 10 March – and a fourth the following day – but with no details given in either case.

Yesterday, 13 March, the Australian Submarine Corporation also announced it had recorded its first case, going into significant detail of where the man worked and what the company was doing to ward against spread.

Defence added its fifth case to the running total this morning at 1030am eastern – again with no details.

Instead, Defence offers the following general advice and information about how it is dealing with the escalating situation.

 

Defence update at 1030 AEDT on 14 March 2020

  • Confirmed Defence cases to date: 5

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.

Preventative measures

To address the risk of COVID-19 infection within Defence and the general community, all Australian Defence Force (ADF), Defence Australian Public Servants (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.

It is important for the protection of others that personnel phone ahead of presentation to any health facility. In some cases, advice may be provided over the phone without the need to attend in person. Testing is only required in specific circumstances and will be arranged in accordance with Department of Health guidelines.

Personnel can return to work when they are symptom-free unless otherwise directed by their health care provider or a public health unit.

How to report 

ADF and eligible foreign military members should speak with the Defence Health Centre via phone or by contacting 1800 IMSICK for advice on whether further assessment is required.

On contacting 1800 IMSICK, they may be transferred to 1800 DEFENCE (1800 333 362) to help Defence implement preventive measures and monitor the impact on operations. 

APS and contractors should seek care through their usual health care provider and contact 1800 DEFENCE to help Defence implement preventive measures and monitor the impact on operations. 

For more information on what to do in the event you or a member of your family have come into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, what a diagnosis means for you and/or your family, and what to do in self-isolation, please refer to information on COVID-19 provided by the Department of Health or your State or Territory health authority.

Defence is working in partnership with other Commonwealth agencies as part of a whole-of-government approach and response. This includes decisions on travel and planned events or activities. Before undertaking any business or personal travel, Defence members must refer to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller website. This website reflects the most up-to-date information about international travel.

Personnel deployed overseas

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.

ADF members overseas are directed to follow protective measures outlined in the Department of Health guidelines and comply with screening and quarantine measures of the relevant host nation.

Defence continues to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation in Australia and around the globe, and continues to assess the risk to its operations and exercises.

Taskforce

Defence has established a COVID-19 taskforce led by Lieutenant General John Frewen DSC AM. Lieutenant General Frewen is working offline from his role as Principal Deputy Director-General of the Australian Signals Directorate for the duration of his appointment to the taskforce.

The taskforce has been established to ensure departmental resilience and ensure that we are well prepared to continue business in light of COVID-19.

The taskforce will also be coordinating Defence’s contributions to support whole-of-government action to address the impacts of COVID-19.

The taskforce includes representatives from the APS and the ADF.

Events

The Australian Government, like other governments around the world, is adjusting a range of plans and commitments as it works to contribute to the whole-of-government response to the coronavirus.

In line with the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and Australian Government, Defence is currently reconsidering the status of its upcoming events to ensure the safety of personnel involved.

[For example, the international component of the Australian Army Skill at Arms Meeting (AASAM) was cancelled. But, again, while teams involved were obviously notified, Defence treated this information as if it didn’t exist when making a public announcement to herald the start of an Australian-only version of AASAM, on Thursday. Defence confirmed the cancellation to CONTACT late on 13 March] 

Childcare centres are prepared for COVID-19

The Defence childcare provider, One Tree Community Services, is monitoring requirements to support families and staff as the COVID-19 outbreak progresses. To help reduce transmission, they have increased focus on children’s hygiene such as hand-washing and have implemented heightened cleaning procedures.

Consistent with the Department of Health guidelines, the One Tree exclusion policy means that any child or staff member who is unwell will be sent home. They are also required to inform the Department of Education of any childcare families being tested for COVID-19 for reporting purposes.

Families are asked to support Defence childcare centres in protecting the health and wellbeing of all children and staff. If you have concerns, contact your centre or call the all-hours Defence Family Helpline on 1800 624 608.

Information for families

The Defence Community Organisation (DCO) is providing information, support and links to resources to assist ADF members and families.

This includes 24-hour access to the Defence Family Helpline, which is staffed by qualified human services staff who can provide immediate emotional support, explore options of support and link in to Defence and other community support.

DCO can be contacted 24 hours a day on 1800 624 608, defencefamilyhelpline@defence.gov.au or by visiting its website.

Home isolation, quarantine periods and/or the spread of COVID-19 can be a stressful experience. Your family doctor can refer you to the most appropriate support services in your area.

Information for Defence industry

Defence is monitoring the possible impact of COVID-19 on industry and the supply chains that support ADF capability.

Contractors are advised to seek care through their usual health care provider and to call 1800 DEFENCE (1800 333 362) to help Defence implement preventative measures and monitor potential impacts on operations.

Additional resources 

The coronavirus health information line (1800 020 080) provides accurate information on the coronavirus.

The Healthdirect hotline (1800 022 022) provides access to a registered nurse if you have any health concerns.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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