Fifty members of the Australian Defence Force were at testing sites across Melbourne on Sunday.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said the drive-through COVID testing at the Showgrounds was “proving to be a mega-site for testing”.
She said that with a capacity of 25,000 tests to be processed across Victoria each day, and 1000 workers now walking the streets of suburbs with outbreaks, the ADF was “assisting us with the big fixed-location sites, freeing up our healthcare workers to be part of this testing blitz”.
After a difficult summer of providing support for bushfire-hit areas, some of the nurses and medics now stationed in Melbourne had already been instrumental in testing at other COVID-19 outbreak sites, including in Burnie, Tasmania.
Commander Miller said the chance to “offer support and reach out” to the public during testing was important to his team.
“My members have really commented on how forthcoming the public has been in both their willingness to get tested, and obviously those sideline chats asking where military members had come from and thanking them for coming down to help,” he said.
“It’s a positive mood – I think everyone is on the same page, everyone has got their part to play in combating this issue.”
The state government had made a request on Wednesday night for 850 ADF members to assist with the fight against COVID-19, but the order for that number was rescinded the next day.
Premier Daniel Andrews said on Sunday that “it’s not a matter of not wanting them”, but rather that the ADF looked at Victoria’s transport arrangements for returned travellers taken to hotels, and they “wouldn’t be doing any different” than what was already happening.
“If there’s a need for any more support – whether it be more tests from laboratories in other states, more health clinicians or contact-tracing experts from other states or indeed any federal government support of those in uniform or not – we won’t hesitate to ask,” he said.
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“This is fluid, it changes very quickly.”
Commander Miller said the military involvement in Victoria’s fight against COVID-19 was open-ended.
“We’ll be here for as long as the Victorian government requires us to be … At the end of the day, us as a military force, this is what we train to do.”
Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org