Coronavirus: 2 Grand Chiefs call for reintroduction of northern Manitoba travel ban

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba chief public health officer, speaks during the province's latest COVID-19 update at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg Monday, March 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas want Manitoba’s top doctor to reinstate the travel ban to northern Manitoba.

Both Grand Chiefs are calling on Dr. Brent Roussin to work with First Nations leadership on the issue as northern Manitoba sees a new COVID-19 case on Sunday.

The new case is among four the health region has seen since the coronavirus pandemic began. The health region hasn’t seen a new case since the beginning of April.

“Access to primary health care is not comparable to our neighbours in the south,” said Settee through a media release.

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The initial ban went into place on April 16 limiting travel to essential workers.

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Sunday’s new case in the northern health region is in the Gillam and Fox Lake Cree Nation district, however Roussin said at Sunday’s press conference the case was not on a First Nation.

While the travel sector took a hit when COVID-19 first swept over Manitoba, a $2-million campaign by Travel Manitoba encouraged visiting the northern destination in hopes of kick-starting the economy.

It’s unknown right now how the latest case in the Northern Health Region was contracted, but Roussin said it was previously a case from the Prairie Mountain Health Region.

Though the call is to impose travel restrictions, Settee said it’s important to be mindful of educators returning to northern schools and not place restrictions on those essential workers.

“We can find a common ground to ensure the continuation of necessary activities in our communities while ensuring the protection of our peoples,” said Settee.

Roussin said at Sunday’s conference nothing is off the table when it comes to reinstating measures.

“We’ve definitely met with the Grand Chiefs and (are) discussing their concerns and we’ll continue to do so,” said Roussin.

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The travel ban on northern Manitoba was lifted on June 26.

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