The Canadian Armed Forces are taking precautionary measures to avoid members becoming exposed to any illness in light of the recent outbreak of COVID-19.
Both the CAF, along with other federal departments, wish to maintain appropriate situational awareness on the novel coronavirus situation within Canada, as well as synchronizing interdepartmental actions as directed by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The Government of Canada’s current approach is shifting from containment efforts to measures intended to delay and mitigate the effects of widespread transmission of the virus.
In order to maintain operational effectiveness, CAF has enforced health protection measures for the personnel. The CAF’s response to a worldwide pandemic situation is through Operation LASER. Under Op LASER, the CAF will implement measures to mitigate the potential impacts of the COVID-19 virus on DND/CAF personnel.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, has ordered the activation of CONPLAN LASER phase 3 in order to ensure measures are implemented by the CAF that maintains operational effectiveness and readiness, preserve essential health services for members, and maintain responsive support to civil authorities.
On March 13th, 2020, both the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Deputy Minister directed further actions regarding preservation measures to ensure CAF personnel and DND personnel do not contribute to the spread of the virus within Canada. This direction is for an initial period of three weeks.
Three directives have been put in place by the CAF as follows:
1. Activation of Business Continuity Planning
This directive instructs minimum manning, with the majority of CAF personnel working from home while continuing to maintain core military functions. Civilian employees within the defence team are also included within this directive.
Only critical activities will continue throughout this period, including international and domestic operations. As a result, only critical personnel who are physically required to conduct critical tasks are permitted on DND premises.
All on-site gym and recreation facilities at Canadian Forces Bases have been shut down until further notice.
All international travel by CAF members within Canada is unauthorized, effective immediately. There may be some exceptions, which would be assessed and approved on a case-by-case basis. CAF personnel serving outside of Canada are instructed to respect regional travel restrictions.
Members and employees will be assisted with travel costs caused as a result of cancelling, amending, or recalling leave travel, following this directive.
3. Events and visits
Limiting attendance at mass gatherings is a large preventative measure in containing the spread of a virus. All mass gatherings and routines that put people in close contact for voluntary or duty reasons have been suspended. CAF members are also temporarily prohibited from attending or hosting public events or conferences.
“In the larger context, although COVID-19 has not impacted CAF operations to date, we will continue to monitor the spread of the disease and ensure that we are well-positioned to adjust operational activities as required. We continue to monitor the situation as the safety and well-being of DND/CAF personnel is paramount,” shared the DND Media Relations Office.
“[DND] will continue to work closely with our government partners to monitor, prepare for, and respond to the spread of COVID-19, and adjust our posture based on the situation and further recommendations from PHAC.”
CAF Task Forces currently deployed will conduct local liaison within host nations and allied forces health care authorities in order to monitor the current state of COVID-19 in areas of operation and coordinate, including precautionary measures and response plans.
The CAF currently has over 2000 personnel deployed on 23 different operations. Each region and country with ongoing CAF operations are attempting to monitor the situation regarding COVID-19 in order to ensure risk to personnel is mitigated.