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Troops await word on quarantine location upon return from Ukraine


OTTAWA — Canadian troops returning from Ukraine this month have not been told whether they will allowed to quarantine at home or be forced to spend two weeks somewhere else while they wait to see whether they develop symptoms of COVID-19.

The 200 troops, the majority of whom are from Edmonton, first deployed to Ukraine in October for a six-month mission training local forces to fight Russian-backed separatist forces in the east of the country.

Military commanders were initially unsure whether to proceed with a plan to withdraw the troops in April and replace them with another force due to concerns about COVID-19.

A decision was made last week to proceed with the withdrawal and send a smaller skeleton force to hold the fort until the pandemic passes.

While the returning troops will be required to spend 14 days in isolation, Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier says commanders have not decided where.

"In accordance with Public Health Agency of Canada recommendations, our deployed members returning to Canada from Ukraine will observe an isolation period of 14 days," Le Bouthillier said in an email.

"The chain of command is discussing the different logistical options for the contingent's isolation period and consulting with our health-care professionals on what is best for our soldiers and their families."

Chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance last week essentially put all Canadian military personnel on a war footing by telling them to stay healthy and be ready to respond.

Ottawa subsequently said it was ready to mobilize up to 24,000 Canadian troops to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Those returning from Ukraine and elsewhere are expected to return to duty following their two-week quarantine.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan this week said the federal government was looking at all its overseas missions and making adjustments where needed. It is also working closely with its allies and "looking at any adversaries that might take advantage of the situation."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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