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Canadian military bars any member travel to China, citing coronavirus risk

Government would help repatriate Canadians in China if assistance requested: Champagne
WATCH ABOVE: Government would help repatriate Canadians in China if assistance requested: Champagne

Members of the Canadian military are now barred from any travel to China as public health officials continue to grapple with a new coronavirus spreading from the country, which has sickened more than 17,000 people over the past month.

In a general order issued to Canadian Forces (CAF) members on Monday, the military says Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance views any travel as a risk to the military’s readiness capabilities.

READ MORE: Canadians with coronavirus symptoms won’t be allowed onto evacuation flight from China, officials say

“The CDS [chief of defence staff] has determined that travel by CAF [members] to Mainland China presents a risk to the health of CAF [members] for the foreseeable future,” the order states.

“It is imperative to protect our force and ensure continuity of operations. In order to maintain mandated readiness, the CAF will immediately implement travel restrictions that preclude all CAF travel to China, business or leisure, until otherwise directed.”

Under the ban, all authorizations for military members with plans to take leave in China are cancelled.

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Any military members currently in China are being recalled effective immediately.

The restrictions include any travel plans which would have military members transiting through airports in China.

The order also notes that “those who may have incurred non-refundable expenses due to cancellation or, or recall from authorized leave travel may submit claims” to have those expenses reimbursed.

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It’s also not clear at this point whether those restrictions could be expanded.

The order notes that “restrictions may be expanded as deemed necessary by on-going assessments.”

It goes on to note that “commanding officers should consider potential health issues when authorizing travel to neighbouring regions.”

READ MORE: Built in just 10 days, coronavirus hospital in China accepts first patients

The decision comes on the same day that a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised Canada for not following the U.S. in imposing a travel ban, which the ministry claimed has “overreacted.”

Global Affairs Canada updated its travel advisory for China last month to advise against all non-essential travel there.

But it has not issued any kind of ban on travel to the country nor on individuals returning to Canada after being in China, as has the U.S.

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The new coronavirus, which officials have said appears to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has killed roughly 360 people so far.

China has put Wuhan, home to about 11 million people, into lockdown, along with surrounding cities.

A total of 50 million people are in those impacted areas.

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China working to contain coronavirus outbreak after first death reported outside the country

Among them are hundreds of Canadians who have requested help leaving China.

The Canadian government has chartered a plane to evacuate Canadians who show no signs of the virus and the military is set to assist in that evacuation under what it has named Operation Globe.

Six military doctors and nurses will be on the aircraft with returning Canadians.

They and the evacuees will be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival back in Canada at CFB Trenton.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Monday that so far, no Canadians have reported being ill.

However, each passenger will be subject to medical screening both upon leaving the quarantine zone in Wuhan and again before boarding the plane.

No Canadian citizens with symptoms will be allowed out of the quarantine zone.

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With files from Mercedes Stephenson.