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

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes the Kootenays

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout parts of B.C. and Alberta

Police investigate break in at Kimberley rock, gem, crystal supplier

RCMP investigating a break and enter into a Kimberley rock, gem, and… Continue reading

College of the Rockies distributes over 75,000 items of PPE to local healthcare workers

Cranbrook, Kimberley and Gold Creek campuses donated their supplies from health and first aid programs

Kimberley City Council passes bylaw to allow for late utility payments for second quarter

Kimberley City Council held a brief special meeting on Monday, March 30… Continue reading

RCMP outline what callers can expect amid COVID-19

RCMP around B.C. are maintaining their core policing services and working to… Continue reading

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

COVID-19 case confirmed at restaurant in Cache Creek: Interior Health

Customers who visited the site from March 25 to 27 are asked to self-isolate

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

First COVID-19 outbreak in Interior Health identified at Okanagan agricultural business; 14 cases confirmed

75 workers are in isolation — 63 migrant workers and 12 local workers

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Most Read