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March 24, 2020 | Local, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

Canadian military will no longer release info about numbers of personnel affected by COVID-19

“This is information we don't want opposing forces to have as we're relatively a small force,” a spokesman said Friday.


The Canadian Forces won't be releasing information on the numbers of military personnel who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus because of security reasons.

The military had previously confirmed three cases, including one involving a reservist who had been on a personal trip to Spain. The Canadian Forces had also stated that no personnel on overseas operations had tested positive for COVID-19.

But going forward, the Canadian military will no longer be confirming any other cases publicly because of operational security, Department of National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said Friday. “This is information we don't want opposing forces to have as we're relatively a small force,” he added.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance has warned that the “integrity” of some military units could be threatened by personnel contracting coronavirus. The Canadian Forces could be eventually called upon by the federal government to provide support if the pandemic worsens.

The U.S. military has confirmed that more than 50 of its personnel have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Canadian Forces has also ordered approximately 2000 COVID-19 test kits for military clinics across the country, Le Bouthillier said. The kits are expected in the next week. “The needs of deployed units for COVID-19 testing will be considered in the distribution plan,” he added. “In the interim, we are working in collaboration with our partners, through a combination of integral, allied and host nation supports, to ensure deployed CAF members are provided with the best available health care.”

COVID-19 has also caused the cancellation of Exercise Maple Resolve, the army's main training event for the year, as well as a naval exercise off the coast of Africa. HMCS Glace Bay and HMCS Shawinigan, which were to take part in that naval training, are now returning to Halifax. The ships are expected to arrive in mid-April.

Troops from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa who were supposed to take part in Exercise Maple Resolve will now be training in smaller groups, Le Bouthillier said.

“We will mitigate this lost training opportunity through the aggressive pursuit of smaller training events and professional development,” he noted. “We will return to our normal managed readiness cycle when conditions permit.”

“The current situation with COVID-19 is unprecedented and prudence demands we adopt a posture that allows us to best support civilian authorities should the need arise while safe-guarding the well-being of our personnel and the broader Canadian public,” Le Bouthillier stated.

Maple Resolve was scheduled to take place from May 11 to 24 at Wainwright Alta. It normally involves approximately 5000 personnel and 1450 pieces of major equipment. The exercise gives participating personnel the opportunity to train with a wide variety of weapons, simulation technology, armoured fighting vehicles, and aircraft in order to hone their skills in a realistic setting, short of an actual operation.

Another exercise that was to have taken place before Maple Resolve has also been cancelled. That training event, scheduled to run from April 5 to May 5, would have involved around 2,000 troops.

Military personnel from the U.S., United Kingdom, France and Brazil had been scheduled to take part in Maple Resolve.

Many other nations are also cancelling military exercises because of COVID-19.

In addition, the Canadian Forces is also limiting public access to its recruiting centres across the country. The military is continuing to recruit but has asked new applicants to begin their recruiting process using its website. “For those applicants currently going through the recruitment process, please note that all face-to-face interactions will be restricted and by appointment only,” the Canadian Forces added in a social media post. “If contacted for an appointment, please note that we are implementing additional protective protocols including increased questions specific to individual circumstances in order to ensure the continued health of our recruiting teams.”

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