Long way from home to fight COVID

Able Seaman Dominic Turkalj, from Perth, and his ADF colleagues deployed on Operation COVID-19 Assist have been working closely with the Victoria Police teams on the hotel quarantine program.

CAPTION: Able Seaman Dominic Turkalj on deployment in Victoria. Story and photo by Captain Kristen Cleland.

Two weeks into a six-week deployment, they provide support when hotels are changed from a “green zone” to a “red zone” when arrivals come from potential COVID hotspots or overseas.

“When the hotel becomes a red zone, we work with the Victoria Police members to block off the roads around the hotel, so there’s no chance of transmission to members of the community,” Able Seaman Turkalj said.

“The hotel staff then clean all areas that have been used for the people new to the quarantined hotel, which means the processes are in place to keep all the staff, both government and non-government, safe while at work.

“Every day we monitor all the cleaners and maintenance personnel, all the deliveries for those in the hotel. We do temperature checks, we ensure they haven’t been to any hotspots, ensure they’re checked in and know where they can and can’t go to ensure their safety while they’re working.”

Able Seaman Turkalj said it had been a very different kind of deployment, working through a pandemic in fairly segregating conditions.

“We don’t really get to see anyone that isn’t in our team or bubble, unless you get a distanced wave when you collect your meals,” he said.

“We eat in our rooms and are only allowed to leave our hotel room for exercise. The hotel is our home and we are living and operating under the same lockdown conditions as all Victorians during the deployment.

“We’re separated from all the other members of the task unit, in case anyone is exposed to the virus – it reduces the spread, however, it can be isolating. The protection measures go as far as being allocated one car per team, and no other ADF personnel can enter or use our allocated car.”

Originating from Toowoomba in Queensland, Able Seaman Turkalj has been in the Navy for two and half years.

He has spent the past two years in ships, currently serving in HMAS Perth, and is based in Perth.

“My family are all back in Toowoomba, and my friends and colleagues are all in Perth,” Able Seaman Turkalj said.

“I’ve come from Perth, where we didn’t have any restrictions, to Melbourne and straight into a lockdown. When I go back I will have to quarantine following my deployment.”

Able Seaman Turkalj said being in one room for six weeks or more makes living in a small town or on a ship feel large. However, he and his task unit have been given the resources to both stay safe and have people to talk to if they need.

“We have a chaplain to talk with and there are ADF members available to help us if we need to talk to someone in location, although face-to-face contact is limited,” Able Seaman Turkalj said.

“We spend most of our spare time in our rooms but we have Internet, so we can get in touch with our friends and family regularly. All of our actions are keeping us safe while the virus is within the community.”

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