Australian Defence Force suspends Mideast non-essential operations amid COVID-19 threat

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-24 10:23:58|Editor: ZD
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CANBERRA, March 24 (Xinhua) -- The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is temporarily relocating non-essential personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of COVID-19.

As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, Australia's Defence Minister Linda Reynolds on Monday afternoon announced that all non-essential ADF members would be temporarily called back to the country's main base in the Middle East and some withdrawn to Australia.

"Non-essential personnel will be relocated to Australia's main logistics base in the Middle East and those who are close to concluding their operational duties will be able to return home," she said in a statement.

"This temporary measure is to preserve the safety of our people and partners, and to limit the spread of COVID-19 in operational areas.

"There will be no impact to the force-protection of ADF personnel remaining in Iraq and Afghanistan."

She said that the status of defence force operations would be reviewed on a constant basis and training operations will resume when it is safe to do so.

It comes after the ADF moved to suspend training missions in the region in response to the virus.

Earlier on Monday Reynolds announced that the ADF would be deployed within Australia to assist with logistics, transport, health and general planning as the pressure on the public healthcare system reaches unprecedented levels.

"Defence continues to follow the advice of Australian health authorities when prioritising its support arrangements," she said.