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Sea training halted over fears sailor’s family exposed to virus

Frigate HMCS Regina called off at-sea training after less than two days and returned to CFB Esquimalt because a Canadian navy sailor has a family member who might have been exposed to COVID-19.
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HMCS Regina, seen in January in camouflage colours to honour the Battle of Atlantic.

Frigate HMCS Regina called off at-sea training after less than two days and returned to CFB Esquimalt because a Canadian navy sailor has a family member who might have been exposed to COVID-19.

Royal Canadian Navy spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said the sailor received word of the possible contact on Friday. The crew member reported to sick bay and was immediately isolated on shore. The member has since tested negative for COVID-19.

HMCS Regina sailed on Saturday but was ordered back to Esquimalt on Monday, before the test results had come in. The crew was ordered to remain on board to limit potential community exposure.

Lamirande said Regina’s response aligns with directions from the Department of National Defence and Canadian Public Health Authorities.

The ship was originally sent to sea on a training mission to ready frigate HMCS Calgary for its upcoming deployment to the Asia-Pacific region. HMCS Calgary is now at sea, still conducting training.

No departure time was specified, but HMCS Regina is expected to soon join HMCS Calgary along with HMCS Brandon and a detachment from 443 Maritime Helicopter Squadron to complete the readiness training.

Canadian navy frigates such as Regina and Calgary are considered the workhorses of Canada’s deep water navy and carry a complement of about 225 men and women. Maritime coastal defence vessels such as Brandon have a crew of 35.

All three vessels are expected to remain in a state of high readiness to respond to situations such as emergency search and rescue missions. At the same time, the navy must protect the health of members of the Canadian Armed Forces and its civilian employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

All ships have planned and prepared for how to deal with COVID-19.

Calgary, Regina and Brandon all carry medical personnel who will monitor their crews for signs of COVID-19.

Despite concerns, no scheduled deployments have been cancelled for any Royal Canadian Navy ships.

However, HMCS Nanaimo and HMCS Whitehorse have been ordered to return home early to CFB Esquimalt because of COVID-19 concerns. Both are expected in early April instead of mid-May.

The maritime coastal defence vessels were off the western shores of Central America conducting Operation Carribbe, a long-standing anti-drug-smuggling operation.

rwatts@timescolonist.com