Rapid COVID-19 testing comes to CFB Esquimalt


Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

CFB Esquimalt has been selected by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff to take part in a pilot project for COVID-19 rapid testing.

Approximately 12,800 COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Detection Testing (RADT) kits have been delivered to the base. The test is a self-administered swab and can yield results in about 15 to 20 minutes.

The implementation of a rapid-testing program in the workplace is intended to identify asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. CFB Borden and CFB Halifax have also been selected to take part in the pilot project, the results of which will be assessed after 12 weeks.

The tests are voluntary, completely confidential, and are being made available locally to certain workplaces and facilities through Formation Safety and Environment (FSE).  Priority units are currently in the process of being trained so they can have self-sufficient testing programs, says Catherine Leith, Formation Safety Officer.

Top Priority

Ships going to sea are the top priority to receive the test kits. Individuals receiving or delivering training in areas such as Basic Military Qualification, naval boarding parties, and other close contact training are the next priority.

Test kits will be of great value for ships at sea, says Leith. Sailors in sea-going units are routinely tested by Canadian Forces Health Services staff using PCR laboratory tests. The PCR tests are the most thorough and effective method but can sometimes take days to get the results back.

“The new tests can be given to a ship’s company on the day they sail or to a group of students the morning before a class; their operations can continue without pausing for the test results to come in,” she adds.

Although DND has implemented rigorous pubic health measures within defence facilities, this latest effort is all about mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and identifying asymptomatic individuals. 

“There is still potential for individuals who are infected with COVID-19 but don’t have symptoms to unintentionally expose others to the virus,” says Leith.

The RADT program will not replace or alter the existing operationally-focussed CAF rapid testing currently underway or the need to enforce public health measures.


Test kits are manufactured by U.S.-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Abbott. They come with basic, easy to follow pictorial instruction and FSE has also developed informative brochures and tip sheets to help chains of command, trained personnel who will guide others through the test, and other members through the process.

Some units will be instructed on administering the tests themselves, to make the program as flexible as possible so it can be tailored to their operational requirements. This method will be used for units required to conduct testing on a regular basis.

Smaller units that only require occasional testing or static testing sites that are open to all members of the base will be staffed by a team of military personnel and DND civilians who have been seconded to FSE. 

In order to be tested, employees need to meet the following requirements: asymptomatic (they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms), have not been in contact with a known positive case of COVID-19 for 14 days, are not currently under public health advice to self-isolate or quarantine and have not tested positive for COVID-19 with a PCR laboratory test within the last 90 days as this may result in a false positive RADT result.

If you have any questions about the RADT, please reach out to your Unit General Safety Officer.


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