Coronavirus: Canada provinces seek military help to combat pandemic

OTTAWA (AFP) – Canada’s Ontario and Quebec provinces on Wednesday (April 23) asked for the military to help overwhelmed staff at elderly care homes hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The requests came as Canada surpassed 2,000 Covid-19 deaths – half of them at long-term care facilities.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said soldiers are needed at five of the most affected care homes in the province, saying the coronavirus in these places is spreading like a “raging wildfire”.

Mr Ford did not specify how many troops were needed.

There have been 448 deaths at 128 of Ontario’s care homes that reported outbreaks.

In Quebec, 4,000 elderly people living in retirement homes have been infected, representing more than eight out of 10 of the Covid-19 deaths in the province.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault told a news conference that he’d asked Ottawa to send 1,000 troops.

This is in addition to 130 military doctors and medics previously requested as reinforcements. Only half of those have been deployed so far.

“It will help us a lot to have lots of extra hands to do tasks that are less medical and help the staff,” Mr Legault said.

Ottawa was expected to respond to both provinces’ requests on Thursday.

Quebec tried to quickly recruit 2,000 new staff for its long-term care facilities in recent weeks to ease the workload for existing staff struggling with coronavirus outbreaks, but only 350 have applied so far, the Premier said.

Even with a salary top-up from the government, the jobs are relatively low-paying.

One of the worst cases in Montreal, where 31 elderly residents died after their caregivers fled the Herron nursing home, leaving them to fend for themselves, provoked a public outcry.

Another in Laval, north of Montreal, has recorded 69 Covid-19 deaths.

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