Nova Scotia

Navy crews sequestered in a Halifax hotel to reduce COVID-19 risks before departure

Navy members headed out to sea on two ships are being sequestered in a Halifax hotel in an "extremely cautious" step to ensure they aren’t exposed to COVID-19 before departure.

Decision affects HMCS Moncton, HMCS Ville de Quebec and a Cyclone helicopter air detachment

The crew of HMCS Moncton will be sequestered in a Halifax hotel before heading out to sea. (Patricia Kandiurin)

Navy members headed out to sea are being sequestered in a Halifax hotel in an "extremely cautious" step to ensure they aren't exposed to COVID-19 before departure.

Rear Admiral Craig Baines, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, addressed families and military members in a statement Monday.

"I realize this decision will be very challenging for our sailors and their families. In many ways, it will be like they have left on deployment, while in reality they will be very close by," Baines said.

He said the arrangements must be made to "maintain the preparedness" of crews on ready-duty ships HMCS Moncton and HMCS Ville de Quebec, along with a Cyclone helicopter air detachment.

Given the unknowns of how long the country will be dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Baines said the navy must "remain ready to respond, if and when, we are tasked to directly support our fellow Canadians."

The ships will be ready to respond on short notice to "coastal communities who might need a helping hand," a Department of National Defence spokesperson said in an email Monday.

'Tough decisions need to be made'

Until now, Baines said these members have been home with their families and practising physical distancing like all other citizens.

To reduce the risk of infection for these members, Baines said he's decided to sequester the crews in a Halifax hotel for 14 days.

None of the crew members have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Monday, and the military has assessed them as low-risk for getting the virus given their actions so far.

But Baines said this move gives them the best chance of avoiding a community spread within one of the ships, should someone contract the novel coronavirus at the last minute through normal interactions with their family.

When the two weeks are up, Baines said the crews will depart for sea in "anticipation of future taskings." The length of their sea time will be determined later as the military tracks the regional and national situation, Baines said.

"Tough decisions need to be made in order to preserve the Royal Canadian Navy's ability to assist the civilian authorities and Canadians during this pandemic," Baines said.

The navy is still working on an exact date to move people into the hotel, but Baines said it will not happen before Wednesday.

He added the members themselves were given advance notice so they could help their families get support plans in place.