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The Canadian Forces say five members working in long-term-care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic have tested positive for the illness.

Four of them are in Quebec and one is in Ontario.

Nearly 1,700 members of the Canadian Forces are working in nursing homes where regular staff have been overwhelmed by COVID-19, in some cases becoming sick themselves. The Forces are promising reports on the illness in those deployed to nursing homes every two weeks.

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Quebec in particular has seen severe COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, including one in the Montreal area where residents had been nearly abandoned by the staff. Premier François Legault asked for the military’s help shortly after that case was publicized and Ontario Premier Doug Ford followed suit.

Canadian Forces members are now working in 25 long-term-care homes in Quebec and in five in Ontario. Most are in support roles: cleaning, serving food and assisting with residents’ basic needs. The military says all have been equipped with personal protective equipment and training in how to use it.

“The risk to our personnel remains high due to the fact that we are often operating in high-risk COVID-19+ threat environments and working in close proximity with persons who have either tested positive or are exhibiting COVID-19 related symptoms,” the Forces said in a statement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that the risk of infection was something the military knew about going in. “There are always risks in what they do and they go into that knowingly and willingly and that is why we offer them our deepest gratitude every day,” he said.

“At the same time, we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect them, so we will look at the protocols in place and see if and how they can be strengthened, as well as ensuring that cases of COVID-19 don’t spread through the Canadian Armed Forces and others who are serving their country.”

Mr. Trudeau said the Forces are considering hazard pay for troops deployed in care homes, akin to what they would get on a dangerous assignment overseas.

Ontario issued a new emergency order on Wednesday to temporarily replace the management of some long-term care homes if they are struggling to contain COVID-19 outbreaks. Health Minister Christine Elliott says the measure is meant to strengthen protections for vulnerable seniors in those facilities. The Canadian Press

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