OTTAWA -- As the COVID-19 pandemic wages on, the Canadian military is in the process of procuring new equipment to boost their capacity to transport people with infectious diseases, including a specialized shipping container that can fit up to 12 patients, according to new documents tabled in the House of Commons this week.

According to the Department of National Defence, they are “procuring new and specialized health equipment that will improve our ability to provide medical support on operations, at home and abroad.”

Already there are Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft that are capable of transporting COVID-19 patients, though new equipment is coming to allow patient transport for those with a range of infectious diseases and to receive medical care while onboard, while protecting the air crew.

Specifically the new protective gear already ordered and on its way includes:

  • One “Aeromedical Bio-containment Evacuation System” (ABES), which the department describes as a reusable and specialized shipping container that can fit up to 12 infected patients to be put inside of the Hercules or Globemaster aircrafts;
  • 15 “Aeromedical Single Isolation Bio-containment Units” (ABISU), which are reusable hard-shell containers that are essentially a smaller version of the shipping container to fit in smaller military aircraft and helicopters;
  • 160 “Disposable Isolation Single Bio-containment Units” (DISBU), which are compact plastic chambers to isolate single patients with mild symptoms; and
  • 50 Griffon helicopter COVID-19 barriers to separate pilots from the passengers onboard Griffon aircraft, “to serve as a complement to other protective measures,” the department says.

“This equipment will ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces have the ability to safely support efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as all medical evacuations of highly infectious patients now and into the future,” said the department in the documents.

The plans to procure the new medical and protective equipment was released in response to an inquiry from Conservative defence critic James Bezan, who also received a response indicating a lag time in early 2020 between when the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command briefed Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan about the novel coronavirus and when the federal government formally convened a COVID-19 Incident Response Group.