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Public health orders needed on Buffalo River Dene Nation to combat COVID-19: FSIN

The FSIN and MLTC are asking the Saskatchewan government to bring back public health orders on Buffalo River Dene Nation to combat a COVID-19 outbreak. (Getty Images)

Indigenous leaders are asking the Saskatchewan government to bring back public health orders to help curb the spread of COVID-19 on Buffalo River Dene Nation.

On July 23, Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) declared an outbreak in the northern Saskatchewan community following an increasing number of cases linked to evacuation due to wildfires.

Read more: Saskatchewan ending COVID-19 mass vaccination sites, moving to outreach program

On Monday, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) issued a call on the provincial government to ramp up efforts, saying the community is battling the virus due to “the lack of public health orders and restrictions in place.”

“We understand that many community members are frustrated and facing ‘COVID fatigue’ but we must come together to ensure our vulnerable community members are safe,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in a press release.

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“We encourage everyone to get vaccinated immediately and continue to follow safety protocols like wearing a mask, practicing ceremony safely and isolating if you’ve tested positive to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Read more: COVID-19: Saskatchewan’s vaccination rates slowing

NITHA and Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) are working with Buffalo River team to contain the outbreak.

“We are doing all that we can to support (Buffalo River) Chief Elmer Campbell and his staff who are working around the clock to help contain this COVID-19 outbreak but more must be done,” MLTC Tribal Chief Richard Ben said in a statement.

“They need more health support staff and they also need the RCMP to step in to enforce health and safety protocols to ensure gatherings are stopped and COVID-19 is taken seriously.

“We encourage anyone who can get vaccinated to do so immediately and to continue to wear a mask and isolate if you’ve tested positive. It’s going to take a coordinated and collaborative effort to get this outbreak under control before it continues to spread.”

With over 70 per cent of the province’s residents over the age of 12 received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the government implemented Step 3 of its Re-Opening Roadmap on July 11 which lifted all public health measures in Saskatchewan.

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According to the provincial government’s COVID-19 update on Monday, the far north west zone — within which Buffalo River is located — leads all zones with 103 of the current 356 active cases in Saskatchewan.

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