Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance delivers remarks at the Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence in Ottawa, on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canadian troops on alert as novel coronavirus outbreak spreads to Iraq

Troops have been ordered to keep their distance from Iraqi forces who may be infected with the virus

Canadian troops in Iraq are on high alert as the novel coronavirus spreads inside the country.

Chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said troops have been ordered to protect themselves, including through proper hygiene and keeping their distance from Iraqi forces who may be infected with the virus, which can cause a respiratory illness known as COVID-19.

“Where we detect that there may be people ill, and we have in a couple of spots, not that we’re necessarily going to be working with them, but we stay clear,” Vance said on the sidelines of a major defence conference in Ottawa.

“Chances are if someone is sick, they’re not going to be operating, they’re not going to be doing the job. Therefore they wouldn’t be subject to our close mentoring. But nonetheless, we’ve started to notice its spread in Iraq.”

While Vance did not get into specifics, two people are believed to have died from the disease in Iraq — one in Baghdad and the other in the northern Kurdistan region where Canadian special forces have been operating for several years.

ALSO READ: B.C. senior in critical condition after contracting COVID-19

The reports follow concerns about a major outbreak in neighbouring Iran that has raised concerns about it spreading to other parts of the Middle East.

Canada has around 500 military members in Iraq participating in the international effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. Most of them are involved in training local Iraqi forces.

Vance said he is worried about the virus spreading in countries like Iraq, where inadequate health-care systems can make it difficult to detect and treat.

At the same time, Vance said the Canadian Armed Forces is stepping up its planning for how to respond to a potential pandemic here in Canada, including how to handle a situation where up to a quarter of all military members are sick and unable to work.

ALSO READ: Hand-washing key to halting coronavirus, but some B.C. hospitals not meeting hygiene goals

More than 400 Canadians and their families were quarantined at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in southern Ontario after being evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where COVID-19 was first reported to the World Health Organization in December.

But Vance said the military must be prepared for a situation where CFB Trenton itself is under quarantine, which is why planning for a possible pandemic is currently underway.

Military officers have also been ordered in a directive Vance issued Wednesday to use their common sense in terms of where to send their troops overseas and participating in large gatherings such as parades and training exercises.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Are you a senior needing help during COVID-19? These Chilliwack volunteers are here for you

Picking up groceries and phone chats are just some of the services being offered at no charge

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Chilliwack Learning Society finds new way to get free books to kids amid COVID-19 pandemic

Debbie Denault is hoping others will join her in handing out free books in their own neighbourhoods

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

‘I love you this much’: Chilliwack firefighters share drone video on two-metre physical distancing

The Chilliwack Firefighters Association has been doling out helpful, visual reminders about COVID-19

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Insurance shock for B.C. condo owners

Claim-free two-year-old townhouse complex told premium will nearly triple

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

Most Read