Coronavirus

Military prepares to deploy to northern communities if needed


Canada’s military has drawn up plans to deploy to northern and Indigenous communities across the country if called in to help locals fight Covid-19.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail on Thursday, General Jonathan Vance said if the virus reaches remote communities that don’t have adequate healthcare resources, the military will step in.

Vance told the newspaper responding to Covid-19 in remote communities is considered a top priority.

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The military is now planning how to deploy a large task force to a hard-to-access community if required, evacuate people by air to hospitals, get supplies into communities, and set up nursing stations or small field hospitals.

“I deem that as an absolute necessity to prepare for,” Vance said.

“If we need to provide for full-service, multi-spectrum support in a fly-in community that is at long range from any of our bases, and if we can do that effectively, then most everything else is going to be an easy day.”

Vance, who is chief of the defence staff, said the military has enough medical protective equipment and ventilators to save lives if deploying to a remote community.

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How smaller communities will be supported in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak has been a matter of considerable concern in the NWT, where some places have no registered nurses and others have no road access.

Vance also noted reservists can now be hired full-time to help with the Covid-19 response.

“At the right moment they will be organized by task forces that are tailored to do the job, whatever that may be, in whatever part of the country that may be,” he said. Until reservists are called in they will remain at home, on call.

For the past decade, the Canadian Army has maintained a reserve sub-unit – C Company, the Loyal Edmonton Regiment – in Yellowknife.

Vance, describing reservists nationally, expects more detail within the next week. He said reservists may be called on to be “a helpful hand in a community should they run out of capacity, in terms of humanitarian acts that are perhaps being done by volunteers now if volunteers get exhausted or sick.”

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