Within a week, the program was launched, coordinated from the CECOM military operations command center near Lisbon.
About 140 teams of one to three people, taken from the Portuguese Army, Navy and Air Force, have traveled across the country since early October. They have already been to more than half of the targeted 2,770 care homes.
Salazar, a 49-year-old gastroenterologist, says the military presence is reassuring for nursing home staff and residents who were spooked by the virus threat and desperately short of medical know-how.
“Suddenly, all these staff … felt like they didn’t know what they were doing and they were scared to death,” Salazar says.
At the root of some muddled decision-making was, simply, fear. “We’ve identified that very clearly,” she says.
In a first phase, troops go in person to the nursing homes and give talks with slideshows that go through the rudimentary rules of cooking, laundry, cleaning and social distancing. It’s COVID-19 101.
Correia, the technical director of an AFID charitable association nursing home in Amadora, just north of Lisbon, acknowledges it’s nothing her staff haven’t heard many times before. The difference is who the instructions are coming from.
“It’s a voice from the outside, a military voice with all the weight that carries,” she says.
Read More: Portugal’s armed forces help nursing homes battle the virus | World