NATO maritime activities during this time have seen 30 ships from 12 nations sail as part of our Groups. Together, they have visited 18 countries participating in local and regional exercises.
When serving on a ship, it isn't always possible to distance yourself. We understood from very early on, that this could be devastating.
"When serving on a ship, it isn't always possible to distance yourself. We understood from very early on, that this could be devastating. As we have seen from some civilian ships, even one person with COVID-19 could mean the entire ship becomes infected. Therefore, from January 2020, very early in the crisis, NATO has been taking stringent measures to ensure this risk is minimized by educating our medical advisors on board the Groups and preparing contingency plans," said Captain Filippo La Rosa, NATO Maritime Command's Medical Adviser.
Captain Filippo La Rosa (Italian Navy), Medical Advisor to Allied Maritime Command. Photo from MARCOM archive.
All MARCOM missions have robust procedures in place to protect our people and prevent the spread of the virus. Before deployment, most crews undergo self-isolation and once embarked, the particular action of each ship is dictated by the ship's national policies. In general, limiting personnel contact between ships, hand washing, the disinfecting of transferred supplies, routine ship cleanings and, when in port for resupply, crews are not allowed to leave their ships. Our ships are essentially self-quarantined as units.
However, through analysing the current trends, we know that this will be a long wave of infection, and we must stay alert and keep the self-discipline and measures going. This is no time to let our guard down.
"Because of the enhanced measures that were undertaken months ago, we have not seen active transmission within any of NATO's Standing Naval Forces. So far, all of our forces are able to continue conducting missions in a manner that takes precautionary measures, while still ensuring readiness. Our forces remain prepared, vigilant, and ready to act if called upon", added Captain La Rosa.
On board TCG Turgutreis, flagship to NATO's Operation Sea Guardian Focused Patrols 20-4. Medical crew member taken temperature to a boarding team member as part of ship's Covid-19 precautionary measures, this Summer in Eastern Mediterranean. Photo credits to Turkish Navy.
"However, through analysing the current trends, we know that this will be a long wave of infection, and we must stay alert and keep the self-discipline and measures going. This is no time to let our guard down." he added.
Our highest priority is to make sure that we are healthy and fit in order to conduct our mission, and fulfil our commitment towards NATO and its member countries. The development of the situation is difficult to predict, but our forces remain ready, and our work goes on.
"Managing COVID 19 is like driving a Formula 1 car, you have to be smart, calm and fast, and any minimal mistake you make will cost you a lot." concluded Captain La Rosa.