Northern Saskatchewan First Nations seeing COVID-19 outbreaks

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WATCH: Two northern Saskatchewan First Nations are grappling with intense COVID-19 outbreaks and it is causing fear that the delta variant is spreading – Jul 27, 2021

Two First Nations communities in northern Saskatchewan are being hit hard with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Buffalo River Dene Nation is reporting over 70 active cases as of Tuesday morning. With fewer than 700 people living on reserve, it has officials concerned.

“We made sure that everyone who was returning was negative but, at that time, there was already an outbreak occurring in the community that created some challenges,” said Daryl Wright, an emergency response plan coordinator at Meadow Lake Tribal Council.

And they’re not the only ones struggling to fight the spread. Black Lake Denesuline First Nation has put lockdown measures in place.

“We’re not going to let any outsiders into our community and our community members are not supposed to leave either,” said Black Lake Chief Archie Robillard.

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

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is calling on the Saskatchewan government to reintroduce public health measures to protect communities.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said the regional medical health officer can notify the province’s top doctor to ask for additional measures.

“But the best thing we can do in the short term and the long term is getting vaccinated and adhering to handwashing, making sure that you minimize your contact … especially if there’s an outbreak in a specific area,” Merriman said.

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

On Tuesday, the provincial government said Saskatchewan’s active COVID-19 cases have increased and now sit at 362. The far north west zone — within which Buffalo River is located — leads with 119 of the province’s active cases. Black Lake is in the far north central zone and has 16.

Health officials in northern communities said there has been vaccine skepticism and hesitancy and said they’re working on educating the public.

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