Five Canadian soldiers have been infected with the novel coronavirus while serving in Quebec and Ontario nursing homes — four in Quebec and one in Ontario — the Department of National Defence confirms.
One of the soldiers was performing duties at the Villa Val des Arbres in Laval, a suburb of Montreal, said a former soldier and veteran’s advocate who has been tracking the military’s pandemic deployment.
That infected soldier, who has not been identified, was part of a team of military members who arrived at the seniors home on April 20 in response to an urgent request for assistance from the Quebec government, said Sylvain Chartrand of Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
After the soldier tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the entire team was removed from the home. It’s not clear whether they were told to isolate themselves.
A second case is said to be a military dentist who also took up duties in one of the long-term care centres — possibly in the Montreal area, the current epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada.
National Defence did not provide details about the other three confirmed cases.
“The safety of the soldiers is a concern to the veterans community and me personally,” Chartrand said. “We must absolutely must make sure that all treatment benefits within the military are available but, more importantly, that Veterans Affairs Canada provides treatment compensation for any foreseeable consequences of this virus.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed news of the infections at his Friday morning media availability but did not provide details.
“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,” Trudeau 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 … ensuring that cases of COVID-19 don’t spread throughout the [Canadian Armed Forces] and others who are serving their country.”