For more than 40 years, Argentina has supplied peacekeeping forces to different United Nations missions. These forces deploy as part of the Argentine Center for Joint Training for Peace Operations (CAECOPAZ) where over 200 personnel recently assumed duties in Cyprus. Operating during COVID-19 has presented new challenges: adopting new safety measures to limit infections plus new responsibilities to protect people at home before deploying overseas.
Serving the Argentine society before serving in Cyprus
During the pandemic, the demand for food assistance in Argentina rose from 8 to 11 million people. From March to July, CAECOPAZ responded by delivering meals to vulnerable neighborhoods.
Strict protocols during training
In July, the team started preparing for deployment to peacekeeping missions. Measures to protect deploying personnel started in pre-deployment training, where all staff quarantined for 15 days without any contact with outside people. Soldiers were then placed into pods of 4-5 people for training exercises, which moved online when practical, with exceptions for firefighting and first aid. In-person exercises mostly took place outdoors with social distancing and masks.
Within the base, barrels created a border separating personnel who would enter and leave the base from the trainee protective bubble.
Another checkpoint was established outside the dining room, where personnel were screened to ensure they did not have a fever but did have a sense of smell. Tables that would normally invite group dining were restricted to individual use. A special biosecurity patrol monitored compliance.
In the evening, personnel slept no more than four to a room with beds arranged to provide further social distancing.
COVID-19 protocols continue in Cyprus
Upon arrival in Cyprus, the personnel quarantined again for 14 days before joining their contingent in the service of the UN.
To further protect base personnel, soldiers adapted measures normally used in chemical warfare situations like erecting a decontamination tunnel that uses quaternary ammonium, a strong antibacterial disinfectant, to sanitize personnel passing through it. These measures are credited with keeping the base COVID-19 free.
In addition to their regular mission in Cyprus, soldiers also try to protect civilians through COVID-19 awareness campaigns that incorporate recommendations from the World Health Organization and the Argentine Armed Forces.