Canadian Armed Forces to Develop Independent Testing Capability for COVID-19

Canadian Armed Forces to Develop Independent Testing Capability for COVID-19
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march in a file photo. (The Canadian Press/Jeff McIntosh)
Andrew Chen

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is developing its own testing capability for COVID-19, said senior military officials in a Nov. 20 House of Commons conference.

Rear-Admiral Rebecca Patterson, commander of Armed Forces Health Services Group, told the National Defence Committee that CAF members have access to rapid testing through both civilian systems and its own surveillance testing.

“The Canadian Armed Forces, since the beginning of the COVID crisis, has been acquiring slowly but surely, along with the rest of Canada, testing capability,” said Patterson.

However, the military surveillance tests are focused on key regions where positive cases have been reported. Patterson also said the CAF across the country have relied on the local public health system.

Canada purchased roughly 3.8 million rapid tests from different manufacturers, which arrived this week, reported CBC News.

Facing a global shortage of supplies, Patterson said the military surveillance testing is prioritized for overseas operations.

“We have taken the necessary steps to ensure we are not threat vectors in the areas [overseas] where we perform our tasks,” said Fortin Major General Dany Fortin, chief of staff and commander of Canadian Joint Operations.

Patterson also assured the National Defence committee that measures were taken to address mental health impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Canadian military.

“We believe in preventing problems before they happen, so the Canadian Armed Forces build mental resiliency into our personnel throughout their careers,” she said. “We have a very specialized program called the Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR), and prior to this deployment, we recognized that this was going to be a unique situation that our forces members found themselves in, and so we adapted the program to address that.”

However, the pandemic has affected military recruitment, and to the Reserve Forces in particular.

More than 7,000 Reserve Forces member went into full-time activation during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak across the country, according to Fortin.