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Navy recalls ships, orders physical distancing on board due to COVID-19
OTTAWA -- The Royal Canadian Navy is pulling a number of ships back from overseas missions and imposing strict rules around physical distancing at sea as the military prepares to respond to the pandemic.
The danger COVID-19 poses to the tightly-packed crews of naval warships was illustrated this week by an outbreak on board a U.S. aircraft carrier, which has so far seen 93 sailors test positive for the virus while hundreds more await their results.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt is now being evacuated at its base in Guam, with no word on when it will return to service.
While Canadian navy commanders want to prevent a similar outbreak on board their ships, the military is also worried about service members transmitting the novel coronavirus to communities where they are asked to respond.
This is particularly true for remote northern and Indigenous communities, which Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has identified as a particular focus for the Armed Forces should it be called upon to help with the pandemic.
In a letter to his sailors, Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice-Admiral Art McDonald says two ships on each coast will remain at sea to stay ready to respond if needed while shipboard routines are being changed to minimize the risk of infections.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2020.