OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian soldiers helping to manage the coronavirus outbreak in seniors’ residences have witnessed some “deeply disturbing” scenes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, adding he was shocked and angry.
Long-term care homes account for around 80% of all the deaths attributed to the new coronavirus in Canada. The situation is particularly bad in Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces, where around 1,400 soldiers are working.
Trudeau told a daily briefing the armed forces had compiled a report on their observations in Ontario.
“It is deeply disturbing. There are things in there that are extremely troubling and we need to take action,” he said.
Trudeau did not give details but said he had passed on the report to Ontario premier Doug Ford, who is due to speak to reporters later in the day.
“I was sad, I was shocked, I was disappointed, I was angry,” said Trudeau, reiterating that Canada needed to do a much better job of taking care of its elderly population.
Both Quebec and Ontario have asked that the soldiers stay on for longer than initially planned and the federal government is likely to agree, Trudeau said.
Earlier this month Trudeau referred to “heartbreaking tragedies” in long-term care facilities, mentioning overworked employees and understaffed homes.
Ottawa and the 10 provinces – which have jurisdiction over healthcare – have already agreed to boost pay for essential workers such as employees in residences.
Trudeau also said Canada had signed a deal with General Motors Co to produce 10 million face masks. Healthcare providers across the country have repeatedly complained about shortages of personal protective equipment.
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