New DM/CDS Directive Released: Operating and Reconstituting in a Persistent COVID-19 Environment

February 25, 2022 - Defence Stories

Since March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has become part of our lives and does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

With this in mind, the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have evolved its strategy to operate in an environment where COVID-19 continues to exist.

The DM and CDS have released the Directive on DND/CAF Operating and Reconstituting in a Persistent COVID-19 Environment. This directive differs from past COVID-19/business resumption directives in that it underscores the fact that COVID-19 will remain within our communities and that reverting some processes back to pre-pandemic conditions is required in order to continue delivering on our mandates. This directive adopts a shift in planning for aspects such as the level of presence at the workplace, travel, and risk acceptance. Above all, the health and safety, including the mental health and well-being of our employees continues to be our top priority.

What does the future of work look like for the Defence Team?

Decisions on changes to day-to-day operations and the reintegration of Defence Team members into the physical workplace will continue to be made at the local-level, based on regional realities and operational requirements. Resuming in-person business activities across the DND/CAF will be based on a variety of circumstances and will be adapted as required to maintain critical operations and protect personnel. The Defence Team will continue to employ a hybrid workforce where it makes sense, leveraging the success that we have experienced thus far by affording our teammates flexibility.

Leadership will communicate with Defence Team members should there be any immediate plans to return to the workplace, and members are encouraged to reach out to their supervisors with any questions. In all decisions, leadership will carefully consider the health of Defence Team members, Senior Medical Authority advice, and guidance from regional health authorities.

What’s new since the summer 2021 directive?

New Layered Risk Mitigation Strategy (LRMS) Tools

The summer 2021 directive included the use of the Workplace Scalable Posture (WSP) as part of our Layered Risk Mitigation Strategy (LRMS) primarily as a means to limit the number of people in the workplace in response to COVID-19 case numbers. With the new directive, we replace the WSP with new LRMS elements including the revision of our Rapid Antigen Detection Testing (RADT) Program, a Public Health Measure (PHM) Qualitative Comparison Framework, as well as a new Mask Framework. This new posture moves away from avoidance towards risk mitigation. These decision support tools (Annexes B-D) will help to inform leadership decisions related to the application of the LRMS across the Defence Team.

Rapid Antigen Detection Testing (RADT) program

As part of the LRMS, the RADT program will involve screening in a deliberate manner, prioritizing Defence Team members who have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 or work in positions where exposure/infection could have a significant impact on operations. For more information on the RADT Framework and its considerations, consult Annex D of the directive.

Travel

Along with the new COVID-19 Travel Testing Decision Tool (Annex E), which provides guidance with respect to pre/post-travel testing considerations, the new directive outlines updated guidance for DND/CAF travel, including domestic/international for:

What remains the same?

Public Health Measures (PHMs)

The Defence Team will continue with strict adherence to Public Health Measures (PHMs) as they have proven to be extremely effective in reducing the impacts of COVID-19. Coupled with vaccines and, where appropriate, rapid testing, PHMs will continue to be our most effective tool for mitigating the risks associated with COVID-19. The PHM Qualitative Comparison Framework (Annex B) provides a framework to consider all PHMs available and make determinations as to whether additional measures such as increased mask quality or rapid testing may be warranted. These decisions will be based on the distinct situation at each respective unit/workplace.

Defence Team COVID-19 Vaccination Policies

The CDS Directive/Directive 002 on CAF COVID-19 Vaccination and the Government of Canada’s Policy on COVID-19 Vaccination continue to be the main direction for Defence Team members on COVID-19 vaccinations. The majority of Defence Team members have received two doses of the vaccine and it is expected that all of these individuals will take the next step and receive their third dose. The new directive does not change any of the requirements or measures within the Defence Team COVID-19 vaccination policies. Should changes be made to either of these policies, they will be communicated with all Defence Team members. More information can be found on the COVID-19 vaccines for Defence Team members web page.

All Defence Team members are encouraged to read the directive in its entirety. If you have any questions on the new directive, speak with your supervisor, consult the FAQ: Business Resumption Directive web page, or submit them through the Ask Anything: COVID-19 inbox. ADM(HR-Civ) will also be sharing updated guidance for managers and public service employees shortly.

The mental health strain on Defence Team members caused by spending nearly two years living through a global pandemic cannot be understated. A wide range of services and support is available to both Defence Team public service employees and CAF members on the COVID-19: Continuing Work Helpful Links & Resources web page.

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