The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is preparing for a possible mobilization to assist in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Operation Lentus, the military is planning coronavirus response forces, which could conceivably assist civil authorities with the rapid set-up and operation of field hospitals, the maintenance of civil order, and the transportation of supplies, especially to remote communities.
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In an open letter to soldiers on Friday, General Jonathan Vance, the Chief of the Defence Staff, ordered members to prepare for a possible domestic deployment.
In order to be ready, members must do what they can to stay healthy — by only making essential trips beyond their home, and following the proper physical distancing and health safety measures as outlined by health officials.
“Today, our mission along with the armed defence of Canada is to safeguard our health, safeguard the health of Canadians, and be prepared to respond to calls for assistance,” he wrote, emphasizing that troops need to “Stay Fit To Fight!”
“The health of the Canadian Armed Forces will be critical in the days and weeks to come as we may be requested to support federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal response to COVID-19 scenarios with specialized and general duty capabilities, and we must carry on with domestic and deployed operations.”
CAF is also taking measures of its own to decrease the likelihood that its activities and operations could spread the coronavirus amongst members, and to ensure it has the required numbers to quickly respond when it is called into action.
Vance notes that nearly all activities in the military have already been scaled back, with a focus on keeping as many people isolated at home or in their quarters as possible.
“To ensure a healthy force, we have taken measures to reduce or pause routine activities that could contribute to the spread of the virus, while ensuring assigned missions and key functions that cannot stop are conducted safely,” he continued.
“Deployed operations will continue but will scale back to maintain force health and force protection. Many of you will remain at home because of a delay in your rotation, and some of you will return from deployment early.”
He encouraged members planning to voluntarily leave the military and retire to delay their departure, as “recruiting has almost ceased” due to the crisis. Furthermore, members in the process of transitioning out of CAF and retirements may be “voluntarily delayed.”
Given the severity and scope of the crisis, stretching across the country, Vance also persuaded former members of CAF to consider serving again and re-enlisting.
Currently, Canada’s military has over 100,000 personnel, including 68,000 regular force members, 27,000 reserve force members, and 24,000 civilian employees.
“Extraordinary measures have been put in place to stop its spread within Canada and around the world,” added Vance.
“It is not ‘business as usual’ in most areas and will not be so until the virus subsides and there is a vaccine in place to prevent re-emergence. This will take time, discipline, and patience.”
As of Friday, there are 4,731 confirmed and known cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 2,021 in Quebec, 967 in Ontario, 792 in British Columbia, and 542 in Alberta. The illness has resulted in 54 deaths to date.