Canadian troops bound for Latvia’s NATO battlegroup had to return to Canada due to the possibility of Coronavirus infection.
Despite all precautions and a two-week quarantine before their flight, one of the personnel that was in contact with the 70 passengers had tested positive for the virus. The Polaris military aircraft was ordered to return to Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario to undergo another two weeks in quarantine. The soldiers were on their way to replace some of their 540-strong contingent to begin a scheduled troop rotation.
Jessical Lamirande, the Defense Department spokesperson, commented that the “health and well-being of our members and that of our allies and partners in Latvia is a priority” and “the decision was made to return the aircraft en route — rather than land in Latvia — to avoid the possible risk of spreading the disease”, according to The Canadian Press. Lamirande has emphasized that Canada’s contribution to NATO will not be affected by COVID-19.
Canada leads a multinational battlegroup which is stationed there as a deterrent to Russian military activities, formed as a response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Germany, Britain and the US lead similar battlegroups in the other Baltic states and Poland, and face similar risks from the pandemic.