SYDNEY (Reuters) - Around 200 U.S. Marines arrived in the northern Australian city of Darwin on Tuesday for an annual military training exercise, but will first undergo two weeks of quarantine, the Australian government said.
The Northern Territory has no active COVID-19 cases. It closed its borders to other parts of Australia in March and requires a quarantine period for all arrivals to help protect remote indigenous communities from the virus.
The rotation of U.S. marines will be halved to 1,200, from a peak of 2,500 last year, and they will arrive in groups of 200 over eight weeks, a spokeswoman for Australia's defence minister Linda Reynolds said.
The Marines, who left the United States two weeks ago, arrived via Japan, where they underwent a separate quarantine period, the spokeswoman said. They were tested for COVID-19 on arrival in Darwin and will undergo another 14 days of quarantine in defence facilities.
Reynolds said the arrival of the Marines, which was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, required extensive planning between the U.S. and Australian governments, and the cooperation of local health authorities.
The Northern Territory's success in containing the coronavirus saw it lead other states in relaxing restrictions on public gatherings, with bars and pubs reopening last month.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham. Editing by Gerry Doyle)