Latvia-bound military plane turned back after Canadian troops possibly exposed to COVID-19

A military plane carrying Canadian troops to Latvia as part of a NATO mission in that country turned around mid-flight on Thursday after someone who could have contacted the aircraft tested positive for COVID- 19.

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The Department of National Defense told CBC News on Saturday that the individual, who was not on the flight, may have interacted with passengers before the plane took off from CFB Trenton.

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) heard about the news while the flight was in the air.

"As such, a decision was made to return the aircraft en route, instead of landing in Latvia, to avoid the possible risk of spreading the disease," wrote a spokesman for the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) in a statement. email.

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The department said that approximately 70 passengers and crew were on board the aircraft, but said it believed the risk of exposure was low.

"These members are now going through a second 14-day isolation period in Trenton, before continuing with the deployment," said the spokesman.

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Troop rotation scheduled for this month

Canada leads a multinational NATO battle group in Latvia since 2017, where 540 Canadian troops are currently stationed.

The mission continued its operations despite the COVID-19 pandemic, although the crisis forced CAF to suspend others.

The military's mission to train local forces in Ukraine was initially halted in April, but a CAF spokesman told The Canadian Press in June that it had become safe enough to deploy 90 members to restart the mission.

The rotation of new troops from Canada to Latvia was expected to begin this month.

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Colonel Eric Laforest, commander of the Latvian Task Force, had previously told CBC News that all incoming troops would be forced to isolate themselves for two weeks before deployment.

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The CJOC said the plane should return to Canada with about 70 soldiers who had returned and completed their tour. The military is now considering other options for taking these members home.

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