Last year’s rotation of US Marines disembark at RAAF Base Darwin. The 2020 contingent is expected soon and faces strict quarantine protocols. Picture: Harrison Rakhshani
Last year’s rotation of US Marines disembark at RAAF Base Darwin. The 2020 contingent is expected soon and faces strict quarantine protocols. Picture: Harrison Rakhshani

Virus experts ‘not consulted’ before NT Marines’ decision

THE NT Government and Department of Defence have defended the arrival of 1200 US soldiers into the jurisdiction, saying the COVID-19 infection risk to the community is low even though the number of infections within the US military is in the thousands.

As the first batch of troops are due to arrive this week, the NT News can also reveal the advice of Australia's peak coronavirus response medical team was not sought prior to a decision being made to hold a modified version of the annual marine rotational force exercise in Darwin.

A Department of Defence spokesman said this was because it was a "jurisdictional issue" for the NT, although Defence had "engaged closely" with the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee throughout the pandemic.

 

Members of the III Marine Expeditionary Force's COVID Task Force screen Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, May 15, 2020. The battalion will be quarantined for 14 days before attaching to Marine Rotational Force - Darwin as the ground combat element. As MRF-D arrives in Australia, all Marines and sailors will undergo another 14-day quarantine period
Members of the III Marine Expeditionary Force's COVID Task Force screen Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, May 15, 2020. The battalion will be quarantined for 14 days before attaching to Marine Rotational Force - Darwin as the ground combat element. As MRF-D arrives in Australia, all Marines and sailors will undergo another 14-day quarantine period

 

The decision to hold MRF-D and welcome 1200 US Marines into the NT has been criticised by West Australian Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John, who said this was putting at risk all the hard work Territorians had done to keep the community safe.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles said there had been "very strong, strict guidance" placed around this year's rotation, including the US Marines being tested every day for four days before they leave their overseas base, arriving in Darwin in small batches and going into 14 days quarantine in special facilities on base in the NT.

No training will be conducted in biosecurity zones.

 

"There is a very, very low risk to our community," she said.

American military newspaper Military Times last week reported that 9449 US service members, civilian staff, dependants and contractors had tested positive for coronavirus.

The Defence spokesman said MRF-D was a "key alliance activity" that "sent an important signal" about the allied nations' commitment to regional security.

"The MRF-D rotation is going ahead in full compliance with national and territory COVID-19 requirements and regulations," he said.

Originally published as Medical experts 'not consulted' before NT Marines' decision


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