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Northern Manitoba First Nations make plans to prevent spread of COVID-19

Grand Chief Garrison Settee, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) speaks about the social impacts of hydro development across MKO territory during a press conference in Winnipeg on September 4, 2018.
Grand Chief Garrison Settee, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) speaks about the social impacts of hydro development across MKO territory during a press conference in Winnipeg on September 4, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

The organization representing First Nations in northern Manitoba also implemented new regulations for its communities to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 will impact First Nations very differently from the rest of Canadian society because of the social determinants that we live in, and the living conditions in the north are very different,” said Garrison Settee, grand chief of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Manitoba has 2 new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19

“Overcrowded homes is an incubus for the infection to spread. It will spread fast and it will impact our First Nations very differently.”

Settee has called for First Nations to only allow essential travel in and out of communities. All gatherings are being cancelled. All schools and daycares are being closed. Information about the novel coronavirus will be provided to members in Cree and Dene.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Six of seven latest Manitoba cases related to travel

Dr. Barry Lavallee, the organization’s medical adviser, said First Nations are at greater risk because many residents have complex health problems. He also said people need to take extra precautions because maintaining social distancing is difficult in a home where up to 13 people are living.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and Southern Chiefs’ Organization declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19 Tuesday.

None of the cases in Manitoba has been connected to a First Nation.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Manitoba chief public health officer announces three new presumptive cases of COVID-19 – Mar 15, 2020