2nd positive COVID-19 case confirmed on board HMCS Halifax

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HMCS Halifax arrived in the city Monday at 9 a.m. AT following a 6-month deployment in Europe. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
HMCS Halifax arrived in the city Monday at 9 a.m. AT following a 6-month deployment in Europe. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

A second positive case of COVID-19 has been confirmed on board HMCS Halifax, a day after the frigate arrived in the city following a six-month deployment, the military said Tuesday.

The first case was confirmed Monday, forcing crew members to remain on board and postponing long-awaited reunions between sailors and their loved ones.

"This is absolutely the first incident where a ship had come back from a trip with COVID," said Rear Admiral Brian Santarpia, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic and Joint Task Force Atlantic, in an interview Tuesday.

The military said the two crew members who tested positive will quarantine by themselves for 14 days in military housing at Canadian Forces Base Halifax.

No other positive cases were found following the latest round of tests. Most of the remaining crew members were permitted to head home Tuesday, though they will have to isolate for a minimum of seven days and provide two negative test results.

Of those crew members, 23 are unable to return home to isolate for various reasons. They will quarantine instead at CFB Halifax.

The others can complete their isolation with family at home, and those family members will not be required to self-isolate. The isolation must take place in Nova Scotia.

Brian MacKay/CBC
Brian MacKay/CBC

"The physical health and mental well-being of our members is key to every decision we make," Santarpia said in a statement released Tuesday.

"We know that HMCS Halifax's arrival was not what anyone had wanted but our initial approach and this subsequent direction has allowed us the flexibility to reconnect our sailors with their loves ones as quickly and safely as possible."

Santarpia told CBC News there were 237 crew members on board, and all but one were fully vaccinated. That person is isolating on base away from family, as if they had COVID-19.

Overall, the military said the crew is considered a "medium risk."

HMCS Halifax had been in Europe for NATO's Operation Reassurance. Santarpia said Monday the vessel made a stop in Reykjavik, Iceland, before sailing home and crew were permitted to go ashore.

5 crew members to depart Saturday

Five crew members from the group isolating on base are set to leave Saturday on HMCS Fredericton, providing they test negative for COVID-19 two more times before departure.

Santarpia said he is thankful to Public Health for its swift reaction to the positive cases, and to the public for their show of support on social media.

"I think they [the crew] really do feel that support," he said.

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