BELGA/DOPPAGNE

450 Belgian troops’ foreign missions prolonged due to the COVID-19 crisis

The around 450 Belgian military personnel that are currently on missions abroad will have to stay put for another month due to the current COVID-19 crisis. Defence Ministry sources told VRT News that the troops that are currently on international missions in Afghanistan, Lithuania, Niger and on ships in the Atlantic Ocean and were due to return will now probably have to stay where there are until late April.

 

The Defence Departments’ Carl G. Gillis told VRT that “Nothing is certain at this moment in time. It’s a bit like playing chess but in 3D. Everyone is tightening up the rules and everything is changing constantly”. 

Guest countries don’t want to import the novel corona virus

As a result of increased flight restrictions and additional quarantine restrictions in the countries and within the organisations for which our troops are working on international missions it won’t be possible to replace those in position at the moment in time. This weekend the Belgian soldiers currently in Afghanistan should have return home. However, their return has been put back by a month.

Officially there are currently 34 COVID-19 infection in Afghanistan, none of this are among the international force currently in the country. As Afghanistan borders China it is believed the number of infections is much greater that the official figures show.

However, “NATO has a very good military hospital in Kabul. So our troops are assured of good medical care”, Mr Gillis told VRT News.

The crew of the Belgian Navy frigate Leopold I that is currently escorting the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Atlantic Ocean have also seen their mission prolonged. As no one has become ill on board and it is difficult to exercise social distancing on a navy ship the Defence Department has decided that it is best not to risk sending any new crew members.

As things stand only the Belgian military personnel currently in Mali will be allowed to return as planned.  “They were involved in two attacks in which there were injuries and were obliged to rest while they were given psychological guidance”.