Military response to COVID-19

Faced with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spread, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are taking unprecedented measures to protect the health and well-being of its members, prevent the spread of this disease, and continue essential military operations.

How the military is responding to COVID-19

The Canadian Armed Forces is always ready to respond to emergencies in times of need, as requested by the Government of Canada.

Operation LASER - response to a worldwide pandemic

Operation LASER is the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) response to a worldwide pandemic situation.

The Chief of the Defence Staff activated Phase 2: Pandemic alert of Operation LASER on March 2, 2020. On March 13, 2020, he activated Phase 3: Pandemic response.

  • The virus is widespread and being transmitted in the general population
  • The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) response will depend on the disease’s impact in each location and local requests for assistance

Learn more about Operation LASER and how the CAF is assisting Canadian communities

Operation LENTUS - disaster relief

Operation LENTUS is the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) response to forest fires, floods, and natural disasters in Canada.

  • In addition to our response to the COVID-19 crisis, the CAF members within Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) are ready to respond in case of forest fires, flooding and natural disasters.
  • The CAF is closely monitoring water levels across the country, but more specifically in the provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia to ensure we are ready to respond to any requests for assistance, as local and provincial governments may be at a reduced capacity to deal with such eventualities due to COVID-19.

Learn more about Operation LENTUS

Reserve Force activation

Our personnel and resources are prepared and have already responded to several requests for assistance to support Canadians. As things stand, a total of approximately 12,000 CAF members have been tasked on Operation LASER across the CAF. This breaks down to approximately 8,200 Class C Reservists, which includes over 1,200 Canadian Rangers, and approximately 3,800 Regular Force members.

Note that these numbers will fluctuate based on requirements as the situation unfolds

Royal Canadian Navy response

The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) has taken steps to mitigate the COVID-19 risk to the naval team, both in sea-going and shore-based units. The RCN is currently conducting high readiness preparations in support of international deployments and is also preparing two Ready Duty Ships on each coast to act as a vanguard force capable of responding to short-notice requirements on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Learn more

Canadian Army response

All Canadian Army (CA) units, regular and reserve, are actively planning to ensure that their personnel are ready to respond when needed, including Canadian Rangers who are integrated in communities across Canada. CA Regular Force members and Reservists, including Canadian Rangers will be forming local Task Forces across Canada in support of Operations LASER and LENTUS taskings as required.

Royal Canadian Air Force response

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has provided airlift and transport capabilities and personnel to support Operations LASER and LENTUS taskings, while continuing to deliver on their standing commitments. The RCAF forces remain ready and responsive to NORAD, which is on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week watching for threats and is ready to defend the U.S. and Canada from attack.

Civilian employees of the Department of National Defence response

All DND civilian employees are directly or indirectly supporting CAF operations with their work. This includes vehicle and fleet maintenance, warehouse management, training, food and cleaning services to name a few ways.

Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) has worked to apply their research knowledge to develop solutions, our procurement teams have sourced new equipment to help us fight the virus, and others from across DND have gone above and beyond to solve our most pressing issues.

COVID-19 cases among CAF Members working in Long Term Care Facilities

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Department of National Defence (DND) will provide updates to inform Canadians about the number of CAF members affected by COVID-19, as a result of their work in Long Term Care Facilities (LTCFs) in Quebec and Ontario. These updates will be provided each weekday by 3 p.m., for the duration of the CAF deployment in LTCFs. 

As of June 1, the breakdown of COVID-19 cases within the CAF population employed on Operation LASER working in LTCFs in Quebec and Ontario is as follows:

  • Ontario
    • 15 Tested Positive
  • Quebec
    • 25 Tested Positive

These numbers are based on the most recent information that has been reported.

Protection and prevention measures

We have taken significant precautions to protect our personnel and to prevent further spread of the virus by adapting its Force Health Protection Measures, Public Health Measures, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protocols accordingly. The CAF is also following expert advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The following preventative or mitigation measures have been adopted by CAF personnel working in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) to minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19:

  • CAF members are rigorously practicing good hygiene, including thoroughly washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • When CAF members deploy, they have the proper PPE such as masks, eyewear, gowns or gloves. CAF members understand the PPE requirements based on the tasks being performed and the environment in which they are performed.  
  • While performing their duties, if CAF members cannot avoid being within two-meters of one another, they are wearing appropriate protective gear.
  • All necessary measures are taken to ensure that CAF members are virus-free prior to, during, and directly following deployment on operations.

Before deploying in LTCFs, CAF personnel are trained in a number of areas including safe movement of patients, protocols for wearing and using PPE. CAF medical personnel receive additional training on assisted feeding and bedside care. CAF personnel undergo a familiarization and orientation period in the LTCF establishment to ensure their work will be properly structured and effective once they commence duties and they receive mental health and resilience training to prepare them for the current reality in LTCFs.

Additionally, the CAF has contracted hotels to support the housing requirements of CAF members providing direct on-site support to LTCFs. Independent food, transportation and laundry systems are made available to personnel to ensure the force is self-sufficient.

The CAF understood there was potential for members working in LTCFs to contract COVID-19. This was taken into account in our planning processes, given that our personnel would be operating in high risk environments and working in close proximity to residents who have tested positive or are exhibiting COVID-19 related symptoms.

The CAF is taking appropriate and decisive measures to mitigate risk to the health, safety and overall wellness of LTCF residents, staff and military personnel. At the first sign of symptoms consistent with COVID-19 the CAF member is placed in isolation for 14 days and/or tested in order to confirm the diagnosis. If required, the member will receive the needed medical and personal support until their health is recovered. Contact tracing is also conducted to help limit the spread of the infection.

The health and safety of CAF personnel and their families is paramount and we will continue to take appropriate measures to mitigate the risk to our deployed personnel and preserve our operational capabilities and readiness for current and future deployed operations.

Preventing the spread among Canadian Armed Forces members

The Canadian Armed Forces is following expert advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and taking precautions to protect our people and to prevent further spread of the virus. These precautions include the following:

  • CAF members rigorously practice good hygiene, including washing hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • When CAF members deploy, they will have the proper Personal Protective Equipment such as masks, eyewear, or gloves.
  • While performing their duties, if CAF members cannot avoid being within 2 metres of one another, they will wear appropriate protective gear.
  • CAF members are dispersed, and undergo 14-day isolation before and after deployment on operations.
  • Our ships will remain at sea when they return home so that the sailors onboard do not come into contact with the virus.
  • DND/CAF asks their personnel to disclose their potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • Anyone who develops flu-like symptoms within 14 days of travel to a country experiencing COVID-19 or who comes into contact with someone infected with the virus is asked to seek medical care promptly.

Changes to military operations

The Canadian Armed Forces is taking strides to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among our members while preserving our ability to conduct mission-essential military operations.

Learn about how current military operations have been affected by COVID-19

Event cancellations and delays

All mass gatherings and routines that put people in close contact for voluntary or duty reasons, except essential force generation activities and exercises, have been cancelled or postponed. 

Name Location Announcement
Snowbirds Spring Training Comox, BC Postponed
Canadian Army training exercise Wainwright, Alberta Cancelled
Invictus Games South Holland, Netherlands Postponed
Nijmegen Four Days Marches Nijmegen, Netherlands CAF will not participate
Joint Task Force Nijmegen Departure Parade Ottawa, Ontario Cancelled
Remembrance Ceremony at the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery Groesbeek, Netherlands Cancelled
Cold Lake Air Show 2020 Cold Lake, Alberta Cancelled
Court Martial proceedings National Postponed
All gatherings in the CAF Military Chapels National Cancelled
Headstone Rededication Ceremony Mook War Cemetery, Netherlands Postponed
Canadian Leaders at Sea Halifax, NS
Esquimalt, BC
2020 SkyHawks season National Cancelled