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New Zealand's defence capabilities dented by Covid-19, says NZDF

New Zealand's defence capabilities have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, given how up to 10% of the country's armed forces personnel are now drafted to implement border quarantine work.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is supporting the government's Covid-19 response policy under Operation Protect and has committed a large number of personnel to the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system. The system requires all individuals entering the country to spend up to two weeks in quarantine.

A spokesperson from the NZDF told Janes that while high readiness in the navy, army, and air force are being maintained, “and are able to respond to a short-duration crisis, there is a reduced capacity to support a large-scale response operation”. Large-scale operations include responses to a regional cyclone or tsunami, a major earthquake, or a Pacific security crisis.

“The NZDF is unable to deliver all output readiness levels concurrently as a result of global pandemic impacts and the ongoing national response operations associated with Op Protect,” the spokesperson added.

It also means that the focus on the Southwest Pacific, identified in New Zealand's recent Defence Capability Plan 2019, with a need for wider regional engagement and support to humanitarian and disaster relief operations cannot be fulfilled in the short term while the NZDF focuses on its MIQ duties.

According to the spokesperson, at any one time approximately 1,200 personnel are deployed on Operation Protect. This is a “significant number of personnel”, the spokesperson said, when considering that the entire NZDF has approximately 12,000 regular force and reserve force that can be used for this mission.

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