HMCS Fredericton continues Mediterranean mission amid COVID-19

A Cyclone helicopter flies over HMCS Fredericton as its crew leaves the Halifax Harbour for a six-month deployment to the Mediterranean Sea as part of NATO's Operation Reassurance in Halifax on January 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese.

As the COVID-19 death toll in Italy surpasses the number of deaths in China, a Halifax-class frigate has no plans to back down from its mission in the Mediterranean.

The HMCS Fredericton spent four days in an Italian port between March 6 and 9, but the Department of National Defence has confirmed none of its 244 personnel have tested positive for the virus.

READ MORE: HMCS Fredericton to depart Halifax on Monday

None are in self-isolation either and the vessel will continue sailing the Mediterranean and Black seas in the upcoming weeks.

“The Canadian Armed Forces is taking unprecedented measures to protect the health and well-being of our members, prevent the spread of this disease and preserve our ability to conduct mission-essential military operations,” department spokesperson Jessica Lamirande told Global News by email.

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Sailors aboard HMCS Fredericton wave to the crowds. Julia Wong/Global News

That news comes as two deployed vessels — the HMCS Glace Bay and HMCS Shawinigan — return to Halifax from their own missions amid exercise cancellations due to COVID-19.

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Both vessels, were deployed on Operation PROJECTION-Africa and will return to Halifax by mid-April.

READ MORE: Wuhan reports no new coronavirus cases for first time as Italy sees deadly day

The HMCS Fredericton is less than two months into its deployment for Operation REASSURANCE, which aims to strengthen defence and deterrence measures in Central and Eastern Europe.

Its crew members visited Catania, Sicily earlier this month before heading to Souda Bay in Greece. The vessel has also been to Tunisia.

As of Thursday morning, there are more than 28,000 cases of COVID-19 in Italy and nearly 3,000 deaths.

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The highest concentration of cases is in the northern part of the country — far from the port in Sicily — but Lamirande said the HMCS Fredericton is still taking precautions on board.

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The parallels between COVID-19 and the Spanish Flu – Mar 19, 2020

Preventative measures aboard the HMCS Fredericton include the cancellation of all non-operational visits and ceremonies, and mandatory personal protective equipment for approved visits on board.

Any non-crew members seeking access to the vessel are also undergoing new screening measures, while HMCS Fredericton personnel who are visiting local ports face new restrictions on where they can eat, drink and congregate.

Lamirande could not reveal the vessel’s schedule for “operational security reasons.”

To date, no members of the Canadian Armed Forces — deployed or at home — have tested positive for COVID-19.


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