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Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance speaks at a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) change of command ceremony in Ottawa in this 2018 file photo.

Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press

All Canadian Armed Forces members will be barred from travelling internationally for three weeks in an attempt to control the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance says.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail Friday morning, Gen. Vance said he will issue the formal directive midday. The directive will ban international travel – personal and military-related – for all CAF personnel in Canada and order Canadian troops posted abroad to curtail their travel. Personnel will be asked to focus only on core military functions during the three-week period and practise social distancing, as non-essential activities, such as ceremonial events and conferences, will be prohibited.

Gen. Vance said the measures are meant to preserve the force and ensure CAF personnel do not contribute to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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“The reason why we’re doing this and taking it is so seriously is the health system is telling all Canadians that we really have to work to flatten that curve to protect the most vulnerable in our population. So I don’t want the military, because of our travel, to be a vector where someone goes out and contracts the disease and then it gets to someone’s grandmother and she passes away,” Gen. Vance said.

Troops posted abroad will be ordered to stay where they are and continue to focus on their operations while respecting the regional travel restrictions. In Canada, some personnel will work from home during the outbreak.

Personnel were given a heads up via email Thursday night about the international travel ban. The email, obtained by The Globe, said the implementation of the travel order will be “messy and complex.” However, Gen. Vance said there is no panic within the Force, as this is a precautionary measure.

“I think it will be hard on some people’s morale but we also know that people want to do their part to protect the country and this is one way to do that.”

Gen. Vance said one CAF member, who is currently on a personal trip in Madrid, Spain, has tested positive for COVID-19. The member is currently in hospital in Spain, where they are in stable condition. He said other members have been tested for the virus in Canada and are self-isolating after travelling to areas affected by the outbreak, but none have tested positive.

While Gen. Vance cannot tell troops’ family members what to do, he said he will ask them to take necessary precautions if they travel abroad and to follow good hygiene.

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