Canadian Forces call back ships, cut missions short due to COVID-19

‘We will do everything we can to ensure our sailors return home as safely as possible,’ says spokesperson

David Burke · CBC News · Posted: Apr 06, 2020, 6:00 AM AT | Last Updated: 3 hours ago

The Canadian military is taking what it calls “unprecedented measures” to protect its members from COVID-19 and prevent the spread of coronavirus, all while making sure it can still conduct essential operations.

To do that, it has cut missions short, recalled ships, sequestered sailors in a hotel and put in a range of self-isolation rules.

The worldwide spread of COVID-19 is impacting operations across all regions, Andrée-Anne Poulin, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, said in an email.

“We will do everything we can to ensure our sailors return home as safely as possible,” she said.

DND has more than 2,000 personnel deployed on approximately 20 missions, many of which have had to alter their activities in response to the pandemic.

Four navy ships with a total of about 160 people on board had to scrap the remainder of their international missions and head home from Africa, the Caribbean and the eastern Pacific.

The sailors aboard HMCS Glace Bay and HMCS Shawinigan are returning from Africa after two international military exercises were canceled. Those ships will arrive in Halifax by mid-April.

Meanwhile, the crews of HMCS Nanaimo and HMCS Whitehorse are on their way home from the Caribbean basin and the eastern Pacific Ocean, where they were helping American forces stop trafficking by organized crime. They weren’t originally supposed to be back in Canadian waters until mid-May, but will now drop anchor off the B.C. coast in early April.

But it’s unclear if the sailors will stay aboard their ships in case they’re needed, or whether they will return home and self-isolate for 14 days.

“Our chain of command is discussing the different options for the crews’ return to Canada and consulting with our health-care team on what is best for our sailors and their families,” Poulin said.

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