First Nations communities hit hard by second wave, highest in the Prairies

While COVID-19 infections continue to rise among Indigenous people across Canada, the crisis in the Shamattawa First Nation in Manitoba is only getting worse.

Nearly one-third of the population of Shamattawa First Nation, a remote fly-in community of just over 1,000 people, 745 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, have tested for the virus.

One hundred of Manitoba’s reported 447 new cases were confirmed in the community on Friday. A total of 313 residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

“More than one in 10 of the daily reported deaths are in First Nations people,” said Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin.

The second wave is devastating Indigenous people in Manitoba and now accounts for 53 per cent of critical care hospitalizations in the province.

The spike in viruses is credited to the number of people living in overcrowded homes, allowing the virus to spread easily.

“It’s the overcrowding that really, really amplified the situation. It wasn’t easy for people to isolate at home,” said Chief Eric Redhead.

On Wednesday, a team from the Canadian Armed Forces landed in the community to determine what additional resources are needed. The First Nation is also waiting for approval for additional support from the military to handle the crisis.

The total number of lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba has passed the 20,000 mark and is now 20,392 since the pandemic began.

According to the federal government, an evacuation of Shamattawa’s vulnerable community members such as elders is currently underway. Six Canadian rangers are also in the community and will stay there for 30 days to help those who are sick and isolated.

Nunavut is also seeing spikes in COVID-19 infections where 16 new cases were identified on Friday. The territory is waiting for the Health Canada’s approval of the Moderna vaccine before starting vaccinations.

“I am hopeful this will happen in the first quarter of 2021,” said Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq.

The federal government is expected to increase vaccine allotments for the province’s large on-reserve communities.

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