Petawawa military base in Ontario hit with COVID outbreak

One of the country's major military bases has been hit with an outbreak of COVID-19. The defence department is downplaying the news, describing the number of cases as "small." Officials have refused to release details, however.

DND is calling the outbreak 'small' but isn't offering details

Clouds loom over the main gate at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ont. Monday, Sept. 4, 2006. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The Department of National Defence (DND) has confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 at Garrison Petawawa, one of the country's main military bases.

A written statement from the department followed a tweet from 4th Canadian Division Support Group (4 CDSG) and a Postmedia news report.

The statement describes the outbreak as "small." Citing operational security, military officials are refusing to say how many people at the base have been infected.

"In accordance with Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) COVID-19 protocols, contact tracing and isolation of affected personnel has occurred," the statement said.

"Those who have tested positive have access to required medical support. While the CAF does not provide COVID-19 positive case numbers at the local level, these numbers will be included in the CAF-wide national reporting."

As of April 19, there have been 1,525 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Canadian military — 99 of them are considered "active" and the rest have been resolved.

The statement also said the military continues to take risk-mitigation measures, including a vaccination campaign.

According to the Postmedia report, the outbreak is most serious in two units at Petawawa — a helicopter unit and an artillery detachment. Those units recently took part in training.

DND says it stands by the safety measures it's put in place for operations and for the upcoming training program at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright, Alberta.

"Over the past year, the Canadian Army has been training effectively and safely in a COVID-19 environment," said the statement.

"All Canadian Army exercises strive to adhere to local, provincial, federal and CAF-established protocols for health protection."

The department insisted the training — including Exercise Maple Resolve, happening next month in Wainwright, Alberta — is critical to maintaining the army's ability to carry out missions at home and overseas.


Murray Brewster

Defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.