WINNIPEG -- The federal government will soon be sending members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to help a northern Manitoba First Nations community deal with a COVID-19 outbreak.

On Tuesday afternoon, National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced on Twitter that the Canadian Armed Forces would be on the ground to provide assistance to Garden Hill First Nation as they deal with a COVID-19 outbreak that is growing in the community.

Chief Dino Flett of Garden Hill First Nation said since Jan. 9, there have been 307 positive COVID-19 tests among community members.

“Everybody is concerned about the growing numbers and the climbing numbers of the positives and close contacts,” Flett said on Tuesday.

“Everybody's concerned and worried at the same time about the outbreak that is happening in the community.”

Flett said members of the community are trying their best to follow public health orders in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but notes there are challenges.

“Most of our homes are overcrowded,” he said. “Most of the homes don’t have the best air vents. Half of the homes don’t have running water that is hooked up to the pipe. There are many challenges that come with this in the community.”

In a statement, a spokesperson with the Canadian Armed Forces said a liaison and reconnaissance team, which included eight members from CFB Shilo and a Canadian Ranger from the community, were dispatched to Garden Hill First Nation on Sunday and Monday to assess the situation. 

On Wednesday, the CAF provided additional information about what members would be doing once deployed in the community.

A spokesperson said they will work alongside other members of the community and government departments to “provide humanitarian assistance and address the emergent needs of the community.”

Some of the tasks that will be performed include general duty support to the community and its nursing station, and coordinate activities with the local emergency operations centre.

Members of the armed forces will also assist in the establishment and operation of an alternative isolation area, and train staff to operate it. They can also assist with home wellness checks if needed.

Garden Hill First Nation is located over 600 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, near the Ontario border.